Winner. Can luck be controlled, if you're careful?
| A Measure of Luck
Winner Writer's Cramp, Aug. 14, 2021
"Don't tell me you're superstitious!" Gloria teased as I carefully avoided walking under a ladder in front of Blasedale Hardware. Tim Blasedale was up there touching up the black paint on his old sign.
"Nah, not me." I looked up and spoke a little louder. "But Tim's likely to try to paint my hair, or drop the whole can on my head, after what I did to him at our poker party last weekend."
"Dang right, you robber!" Tim called down, threatening me with the paint brush. "You cleaned me right out. Cleaned everybody out. Nobody should be that lucky at cards. If I didn't know you as an honest man, I'd have shot you for cheating!"
"You'll have your chance at the next party. The cards can only run my way once in a while." I waved at him as Gloria and I resumed our walk to Patsy's Patio for lunch.
'Now that I think of it," Gloria mused, "you are pretty lucky. You are always winning draws and prizes and stuff. But always little stuff. Never the big million-dollar lotteries. How come?"
"Oh, luck is capricious, I guess. You win some, you lose some. I enter big lotteries. I just never win." Actually, I never entered them, because I would win. Winning big can attract a lot of unwanted attention, some of it not human. I was careful of what I won, and when, and how much.
Down the street, a black cat wandered across the road and rubbed against a street light. I gently took Gloria's arm and crossed the street, hoping to distract her from her previous question. "Don't want it to cross our path?" she asked.
"I'm allergic to cats. Really allergic." This was true, in a way, though not the way I wanted Gloria to take it. Black cats are sometimes...not just black cats. It pays to respect that fact.
We chatted for a while about various superstitions and fears. "Some believe that if the right palm itches you will meet someone new, while an itchy left palm means that money is coming," Gloria said.
"And you know that stepping on a spider makes it rain, right?"
"Spiders! Ick!" It turned out Gloria has mild arachnophobia, and freaks out at spiders. We'd been friends for a few months, and I hadn't known that. But then, superstitions had never come up either.
She went back to superstitions. "Hmm. Tell me, do you have triskaidekaphobia? You know, fear of the number 13? Since I just remembered that Patsy's is Number 13, Main Street. Wanna go somewhere else?"
"Nope, doesn't bother me at all. Just another number."
"Oh, and today is Friday, August 13. Maybe we should have just stayed at home?"
"Don't care what day it falls on. Just a number. Same for you, right?"
"Absolutely. So, hey, what about if you break a mirror?"
"That seven years of bad luck stuff? That probably came from back when glass mirrors were incredibly rare and expensive. Now they're cheap. Probably only gives seven seconds of bad luck, or however long it takes to clean up the pieces of your broken mirror.
"People once thought that the mirror trapped your soul, and a broken mirror endangered your soul."
"Yeah, and primitive African tribesmen once thought a camera would capture their soul. Now they charge you five bucks to take their picture." I was getting uncomfortable with this conversation. It seemed to be getting too close to...things...
"There's Patsy's," I said in relief. "Yep, Number 13! Sure smells good." I steered Gloria back across the street to the cafe. All this talk about good luck and bad luck and superstition was making me so nervous that we walked right past Patsy's gray cat, which was perched on the counter by the door.
Gloria noticed, and raised her eyebrows at me. "Really, really allergic, huh?"
"To black cats. Only the black ones." She gave me a disbelieving glance.
We sat at our favourite table and ordered our usual -- BLT for me, half-order of house salad for her. When our food came, I opened my sandwich to salt the tomatoes. I must have been still a little nervous, because I knocked over the salt shaker. Unthinking, I carefully selected seven grains of salt and threw them over my left shoulder.
"Not superstitious, you say?" Gloria was teasing again.
I into my sandwich as an excuse not to answer. As I chewed, I wondered: could I explain to her the difference between superstition and supercausation? The first is a basically a stupid and credulous belief in the actions of and reverence for a pantheon of non-existent supernatural lower beings such as ghosts, goblins, elves and the like. The second refers to supernatural causation leading to specific consequences of an action or event. These consequences we often call "good luck" or "bad luck", depending on their impact. It also depends also on which cosmic entity is invoked or propitiated to achieve them. They mostly don't like to be bothered, and asking for a big win can seriously annoy them, and seriously hurt you, depending on whom and how you ask.
I've tried to explain all this before to other people, and no one believes that certain actions on our part can predictably and reliably invoke....well, powers...to affect the outcome of events. Even the ones who believe firmly in "the power of prayer" don't realize that they're relying on supercausation. They jeer at me as "a superstitious idiot" or hint that my sanity is in question. So I say nothing. And when they notice things going my way, as they do more often than not, I shrug and say "Just lucky, I guess."
So I swallowed my bite of BLT, smiled at Gloria, and told the absolute truth. "Okay, you caught me. About some things, I'm definitely superstitious."