Jinx: Appeasing Small Gods

I am a rather superstitious person, though I can’t explain why. I suppose that’s the nature of superstition, to defy explanation. If I were in a superstition support group, I would probably realize that many individuals with advanced degrees have silly little beliefs that make no sense, but I am too embarrassed to even find out if such support groups exist.

Still, these notions haunt me. Part of me laughs at it, but when no one is looking, I make sure I’m not jinxing myself.

Re: snow days. There is a myth that says teachers must dance naked on the school lawn in order for these to happen. I don’t believe that, but I do believe that jinxing occurs when too many people start counting on it before the flakes begin to fall.

A teacher’s jinxing power is approximately nine times that of a freshman student. When a ninth-grader says to me, “We’re not having school tomorrow because there’s going to be eight inches of snow,” I know that we’ll probably be in school. But when a colleague tells me on a Thursday evening, “See you Monday,” I am sure we’re doomed. There won’t be one flake. The snow gods are pissed off.

Re: chain letters. I hate it when people send me these . I always ignore them, but secretly fear that over the years I have caused an avalanche of problems by my unwillingness to appease the chain-letter gods.

When I was a child, these used to arrive in the mailbox. They instructed me to send seven postcards to seven friends, or nine recipes to nine friends, or five poems to five friends. Avoiding the chain-curse required much more effort than today, and only the dire consequences explained in the letter made me send out postcards and recipes and poems to (former) friends. People who didn’t do it had actually died! In terrible ways!

Now it’s much easier to keep the chain going, as these arrive in my email inbox. It only requires a few clicks to make people groan when they open their email. But these days I usually ignore them, mostly because I have no more friends.

Re: locks. There is a fine line between superstition and obsession/compulsion, in my mind. I lock my car twice, go back inside to make sure I really did lock all the doors and turn on the alarm, go around checking doors I haven’t opened before I go to bed. It’s not as if I expect the patio door to unlock itself when I haven’t used it in months. I just feel better if I take a look. If I don’t look, I still know it’s locked, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

Re: fortune cookies. These are not reliable forecasters of anything. Though I enjoy being told that my creativity will be great rewards or that my sense of humor wins me many friends, and learning the Chinese word for chicken, on the whole they are rather useless. One day I will open a fortune cookie and it will tell me, “Snow Day!” Then I will begin to dance naked on the lawn.

Re: stars. My mother hated astrology; I always felt guilty when I checked my horoscope in the newspaper. To attribute characteristics to people based on a random grouping of starts makes no sense, I know. I still feel sheepish when I have conversations with true believers; I guess I’m just a couple steps removed from that level of commitment.

Re: numbers. Both of my parents taught math, and I’ve always loved numbers. They have personalities. As I child, I would greet the answers to my math homework problems as old friends: “Hello, 47! Are you still arguing with 49? Just because you’re prime doesn’t mean you can push other numbers around. Some of them have square roots, you know.” This is how I remember phone numbers and account numbers, the way I connect a name and a face. To me, they are people.

Though I know it’s silly to believe in vibrations and numerical harmony, I sometimes notice syncs. I don’t add up the numbers in people’s names because that makes no sense to me, but if number turns up a lot, I start to think about what it means. I think it has something to do with my birthday: Friday, the thirteenth. Though it wasn’t a lucky day for my mother, who was in labor for sixteen hours, it was fortunate for me. And more interesting than being born on Saturday, the fourteenth.

I don’t play the lottery, though; I’ve read too many short stories about people who would have won a million dollars but that was the day they didn’t play their usual number because they didn’t have a dollar. I would hate to get into the lottery habit because I would be obsessive about it. I would start playing more and more numbers and worry about missing a day (just as I worry about locking doors). It would take all the enjoyment out of numbers.

I don’t choose to be superstitious. If I could, I would talk myself out of the whole thing and become an atheist. As it is, there are many gods to appease, and ignoring them is a sure way to find trouble. I am cautious. Today is the ninth, never a good day to change my mind about things. Maybe tomorrow.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Capri
    Feb 10, 2010 @ 03:43:44

    Well, you don’t have to be an atheist to not be superstitious. I like to not merely break chain letters, but smash them into smitherines. This is because I’m pretty sure most of them are started by drongos who love to use people’s emotions against them, to get them to pass on dumb junk. The sick kid hoax chains were what really woke me up to just how sick chain letters and their originators are. Since learning that somebody out there actually loves to slow down charities that try to save life, get people feeling sorry for some fictional sick kid they made up in a chain letter story so people would pass it on, and let’s not forget the insulting guilt-trips that often are included in these chains “If you don’t forward this, you are heartless, lazy” blah blah. So, every chance I get, you bet I’m going to thoroughly trash the chain letter and the anonymous cowards who actually started them in the first place, while hopefully releasing their emotional iron-fisted grip they try to have on their readers. Turning the tables on the hoaxters and laughing at them and their pathetic junk all at the same time. 🙂


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