I’m a born contrarian. It’s not an affectation or a learned behavior; it’s an instinct, a reflex. I mistrust the herd, is what it boils down to. The more the cattle stampede in one direction, the likelier I am to head off at a right angle and find something else to do. My dear ol’ Ma can tell you stories about what a self-determined little crib-monkey I was before I could even verbalize my intentions.
Here’s one of the earliest contrarian moments I can recall: I believe I was in first grade, based on the classroom I was in at the time. During free time, a boy in my class tripped and fell, hurting his arm. Another boy, near me, did a baby-sized freakout about how he knew it! He knew a bad thing would happen, and it did, and now he was so scared! Something worse might happen!
Baby Kai: What the hell are you talking about? (But in child-friendly terms. I was six.)
‘Fraidy Kid (eyes big and round): It’s Friday the Thirteenth! It’s unlucky. Something bad always happens today.
Baby Kai: What? How can the day make something bad happen?
‘Fraidy Kid: I don’t know, it just does. You should be afraid, too.
Well, there were a few things wrong with that: first, I already had the kid picked out as a ninny and snitch (whole other story), so I was unimpressed with his hysterics. He would throw a hissy at the slightest provocation. Second, the story triggered my BS detector; kids may not know a lot about the world at six years old, but they do have rigid little systems of logic. They’re still in their “Why? Okay, but then, why?” phase; any parent can tell you “It just does,” doesn’t fly as an explanation for anything. Third, well, don’t tell me what to think about something or how to feel, ever. Seriously, at six years old, I already had hackles, and they got right up at the notion of this nincompoop trying to scare me with his stupid “unlucky day” story.
I did the early-seventies, primary-school version of “Whatever, dude,” and went back to my desk. But I thought about it for a while, and decided that the only way the day could be unlucky for everyone would be if everyone believed it was unlucky, and pushed their luck away. You see, I did believe in a phenomenon called “Luck”, and I imagined it floated freely through the air and swirled around us and tried to influence our days. I believed everyone got a certain amount of both good and bad, and I imagined thousands of people all deciding on the same day to only accept their bad luck; well, there’d be a lot of free-floating good luck just getting ignored that day, wouldn’t there? I decided right then that I would take advantage of the extra luck in the air, since no-one else was using it, and from then on, Friday the 13th would be super-lucky for me.
See? Absolutely iron-clad logic, albeit founded on a six-year-old’s understanding of how the world works. I’ve outgrown the superstition now, but I still tend to be extra-cheery on Friday the 13th and like to call it my “˜lucky day’, if only for the slack-jawed looks it draws from the herd. I have a special Friday the 13th t-shirt I wear, and as it happens, the day always falls on Casual Friday””see? Lucky! (Co-worker Kathy, laughing at me: “Of course you have a special Friday the 13th shirt. Only you!”) The Gloomy Gusses are usually pretty entertaining: “Ow! Papercut!” “Ah-hah! Friday the 13th!” Yes, today’s paper cut has been sponsored by the number 13! Every once in a while, I luck out with a really funny one: someone who doesn’t want to fly that day, or who took the bus because they were afraid to drive. Jackpot!
So, here’s hoping you have an extra-special, super-lucky, very entertaining Friday the 13th. Me? I’m off to buy tickets for a raffle we’re having today. I feel lucky!!