Whenever I’m faced with a worry or fear, I give it a voice. Doing this makes me feel better, like I’m taking the power of my fear away by saying it out loud. I’m not superstitious about other things, but if I have a worrisome thought that something bad might happen in a situation, I absolutely have to tell someone not to do the “thing.”
The more obvious the danger, the more likely I am to do this.
If someone is driving late at night, I’ll say, “Don’t fall asleep and run off the road.”
If you are trimming trees with a chainsaw, I might say, “Don’t fall off the ladder because the chainsaw will fall on top of you.”
Driving north on the coast from San Francisco toward Oregon on our honeymoon, I said to my husband at least ten times, “Don’t drive off the cliff.” In my defense, there are some seriously treacherous, twisty-turny roads on the coast of northern California.
I might also tell someone who is lighting fireworks on the Fourth of July to not drop a lit sparkler into a big box of fireworks. You know. Because, obviously. Yeah.
We had a big group at our house this year for the Fourth. After dark the adults and kids were gathered at a safe distance from my husband, who was in charge of the fireworks show on our dock. Except for the dog. Our lab isn’t afraid of anything, and he pranced around my husband, barking like a maniac at everything.
I wasn’t worried at all. My husband is a very cautious and capable man. Plus, we are both lawyers and are naturally concerned about safety when inviting folks over to watch whizzing and exploding things that are on fire, blah, blah, danger, danger, liability, lawsuit, etcetera.
Someone pointed out that maybe my husband shouldn’t hold the punk (fireworks lighting tool/smoldering incense stick-like thingy) over the box containing all of the fireworks while he picked out the next thing to set off. Great. There was the worry.
Helpfully, and obviously, I said, “Jack, maybe you shouldn’t hold that stick over the entire box of fireworks because if you dropped it in that would be bad, very bad.” I had voiced it, therefore that very bad thing would definitely not happen. I felt safe again.
We watched as he pulled fireworks from the box and set off one pretty explosion after another. Then he did the very bad thing, but worse. He lit a sparkler and accidentally dropped it in the box. He hastily backed away and people started yelling. As everyone watched, things started exploding and the box spun round and round like it contained a Tasmanian devil with a mouthful of lit fireworks. We all starting screaming and running, searching for kids and hoping like hell there were no rockets left in that crazy, exploding, spinning box.
It was terrifying, and also sort of funny once the devil box was quiet, the smoke cleared, and we all regrouped and determined that everyone was okay.
It’s a cautionary tale, really. And the official end of my superstition, because “superstition ain’t the way.”
By the way, we think the dog is now deaf.
[Photo courtesy Mishelle Lane Photography]