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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Superstition's Charming... Until You're Hooked

One thing I really miss about my former, pre-Russia existence is the total recklessness with which I led my life. Boy, was I wild! There was no slowing me down. I would congratulate people before their birthdays, leave on trips without sitting on my suitcase and talk about things that hadn't happened yet without even a thought about tempting fate.


Wow -- slow down, honey. That sort of behavior can get you in trouble fast. Of course, it only gets you in trouble once you're among the believers. At home with the heathens, I never once knocked on wood. I trampled through life making all range of risky statements, but it never even crossed my mind. Now I spend the majority of my day finding something to knock on, and feeling grateful that I can spit over my shoulder, too, for that classy extra bit of reassurance. A few days with the Russians and you'll spend the rest of your life looking for danger around every corner.


There are some aspects of superstition that are pretty charming, so it's a delight to subscribe to them while you're here. "You'll never guess what they do in Russia," you'll regale the folks back home, and then go on to tell them about the suitcase moment, or having to look in the mirror after you've forgotten something in your apartment. Those things are pretty harmless -- an extra look in the mirror never hurts, goodness knows -- and the rules are easy to remember.


But the more deeply you fall prey to superstition, the more sinister and confusing it gets. Say you find yourself saying something along the lines of, "Oh, you're having a problem with mosquitoes? You know, I haven't had any in my apartment yet this summer." Even if you live in a world of truly limited achievements, this can hardly be considered bragging. Still, simply by uttering these words, you are tempting a rebuttal from the Great Beyond, and insects may flood your apartment by nightfall. You can apparently protect yourself with lots of knocking and spitting, but what if you forget? Is there a statute of limitations on these preventive devices? If you only remember to spit three hours later, will your house fill up with only half the punitive mosquitoes? It's hard to find answers to these questions.


Perhaps the worst superstition is the belief that you should not talk about things that have yet to happen, for fear that you will cause them not to happen at all. And, unfortunately, there's no magic antidote for a premature conversation. No number of knocks or spits will save you once you've talked about the restaurant you're opening next month, or the trip you and your boyfriend are taking to France. This has put a damper on many a fine conversation.


If you can't talk about things that are going to happen, what do you have to talk about?