I am not a superstitious person. At least that is how I see myself, as a not-superstitious person. But I am alert to what some people would call signs. I like to think this is my folklore training; it’s a universal human tendency to look for patterns, while the attribution of meaning can be cultural or psychological (or both). When mystical sorts of things happen to me, I look for a reason. I usually find that it is my subconscious talking, as with my recent Alan Dundes encounter (incidentally, that was not the first time my deceased mentor has come back to tell me something important). But once in a while it really looks like the universe is trying hard to get my attention, and I don’t have an easy explanation.
Like this thing that also happened to me this week.
First incident: International teaching involves lots of transitions – it’s the way it is, and you kind of get used to it, but kind of not. I went out the other night with three good friends to say goodbye to those of us who are moving on to new jobs, apartments, and so forth. We went to the most expatty of expat bars, a dim, windowless wood-paneled hole of a pub where you and your foreign friends can pretend you are somewhere else while you listen to Diana Krall crooning sad songs. Sip away at a pitcher of sweet sangria while you make plans to all meet up again in some faraway place in a year’s time. It was grand.
Two pitchers later, we asked for the check and the busboy came to clear the table. As he was picking up the glasses, he dropped one and it shattered, glass flying everywhere, including into my leg. It wasn’t a hospital-worthy injury but I went through several napkins and a bandage offered by the next table before I could get it to stop bleeding. It still hurts now, three days later – I think the shrapnel is still in my leg, but there was enough alcohol in that drink that I am not worried about an infection. If I develop a permanent limp I will be the only person I know with a sangria-related disability.
[I was going to insert a photo here of the big cut on my leg but thought better of it. Bet you’re glad.]
Second incident: I work in the library on the 4th floor of our school, but next year I will be in charge of both the 3rd and 4th floor libraries. The morning after our little pub night was the last day of school. I went to work as usual, only mildly muzzy-headed from the infamous sangria. As I’m clearing my desk to get ready to go home, one of the assistants from the 3rd floor library comes up to get me to show me what happened downstairs.
The door to my new workspace fell off the hinges and shattered.
OK, that’s something I’ve never seen before.
As I’m finishing things up in my office, I begin to feel a little uncomfortable. It’s the threes. I got attacked by a breaking wine glass last night, today the glass door to my new library is broken in a zillion pieces. That’s two… where’s the third? And tonight we are flying out of Egypt on an airplane.
I am pretty much over my phobia about flying. I fly frequently these days – while perfectly sober, even. But the three pattern goes deep, and it doesn’t really take all that much to bring back that old fear of airplanes – especially since even the most fearless flyers I know are nervous about Egyptian airspace lately. What else is going to have to break? The answer seems almost obvious.
On the bus ride home I start to think about hedging my bets. Maybe I have some glass thing in the house that I wouldn’t miss. I could break it on purpose. I can’t think of anything. When I get home I wash all the dishes, half-hoping I might drop one. No such luck.
There are some lemons in the refrigerator that won’t last until fall. I take them out and grate the peels, then squeeze the lemons. I put the zest in a baggy and the juice in a little container, then open the freezer to put them in – and –
Third incident: I have never been happy to find exploded beer bottles in my freezer until now.
Andreas put these in the freezer to cool down quickly when we had a few friends over for my birthday Tuesday and then forgot all about them.
Postscript: Last night in a little Umbrian enoteca, over a dinner of carpaccio and lasagne ai carciofi, I tell my husband the broken glass story. He reminds me that when someone accidentally breaks a glass in Greece, they cheer – it means a new beginning.
Of course: new jobs, new apartments, new library, the start of a holiday in Italy. And to think I was worried.