March 16, 2007
Several years ago I was staying with a French family. I got up one morning and stepped out of bed right into a nice present left by one of their dogs. The family told me it was all right because it was my left foot, and there’s a French superstition that if a person puts their left foot in it they’ll be rich someday, which explains why Parisians never clean up after their dogs. As John Fogerty said, though, someday never comes. Or at least it hasn’t yet.
What about other superstitions, though? Maybe there’s something else that applies that I’ve missed. I know that if dogs roll around in the dirt it means bad weather is coming. I know that if it’s unlucky to spill salt, but you can avert the bad luck by throwing the salt over your shoulder. But it’s also bad luck if you don’t sweep the floor until after your wife asks you why there’s salt on it. If a big group of crows gathers in the morning it’s going to be a windy day. In the West of England killing the first butterfly you see is lucky, and in Ireland butterflies carry the souls of dead people, so whether you should kill butterflies depends on where you are. Killing a cricket is always unlucky, even if the little monsters are chirping in your bedroom and won’t let you sleep. If you have a cramp in your leg tie an eel skin around it. If you have a headache it’s because a bird has put some of your hair in its nest. If a sexton mows the churchyard it will rain, so don’t let sextons near the lawn mower. If you wash your car and it doesn’t rain a bird has crapped on it. If you’re studying to be a doctor or lawyer or executive or engineering you should consider learning to play a musical instrument or painting or writing poetry–you know, in case that medicine or law or business or building thing doesn’t pan out. In India it’s considered lucky to see milk first thing in the morning, so sleep with your face in the refrigerator if you’re ever in Calcutta. If your ears are burning people are talking about you. If you find coal under your left food in the spring you’ll have good luck, so keep that in mind the next time you’re out digging for coal. If your feet itch you are going on a journey. If your palms itch you’re going to receive money. If your hair is falling out you live too close to a nuclear power plant. If you hear voices telling you to set your office on fire you’re insane. And you’re late for the board meeting. If you dream about snakes you’re going to go to prison, especially if you dream about snakes after you’ve set your office on fire. If that’s the case you’ve really put your foot in it, and you will probably never be rich.