Archived Story

The strangeness of superstition

Published 10:50am Monday, September 16, 2013

Superstition is a strange thing. For the most part, I wouldn’t consider myself superstitious in the slightest.
Our former sports editor, J.D. Cowart used to avoid tails-up pennies so avidly, that we used to leave them for him to find just to enjoy his reaction.
As for me, money is money. I live with a black cat, so I cross its path every day. And as for mirrors, I know I have broken a few.
So far, so good.
But Thursday morning I was surprised to find that despite a belief that most superstitions are complete and utter nonsense, a fear of some sort of back luck or juju dictated some of my actions.
On my way to work, I stopped by the gas station in search of two of my favorite vices, energy drinks and cigarettes.
Every day I get the same thing – green Monster energy drink and pack of Camels.
On Thursday, however, I broke my usually pattern and opted for a different, slightly more expensive energy drink.
When it came time to pay, the clerk entered the cigarettes.
“These aren’t on sale,” she said, “oh wait, this pack is.”
She changed the price and totaled me out.
“That will be $6.66,” the cashier said.
I let out a visible sigh that said “did that really just happen?”
“You want me to add a penny to it?” she asked.
I instinctively let the words slip out, “Yes, please.”
As I walked to my car, I couldn’t believe what I had just done. Then I started thinking about the weird set of coincidences that led to the total.
A different drink and a surprise sale on my smokes.
Would something bad have happened had I not coughed up an extra penny? Was the universe trying to send me a message with my smokes, some sort of beware omen?
I don’t know why others fall in to the superstitious state of mind.
But for me, I couldn’t ignore the possibility that this would bring me harm in some way.
Its not like I thought I would pay the bill and immediately get hit by a car the second I left the store.
But I knew that if I paid and walked out, I would question every bad thing that happened to me in the following days.
Sure, it isn’t quite rational. But it’s really no different than carrying an item, such as a rabbit’s foot or four-leaf clover, for good luck.
For one penny, I was willing to buy piece of mind.
Nelson is managing editor of The Outlook.