See a penny
I don’t believe that I am particularly superstitious. On a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being “not in the least” and 100 the score of your average major league baseball player on a hot streak of wins/at-bats, I doubt I crack the low end of the scale. I don’t think twice about walking under ladders. I love black cats—years ago, one crossed my path when I was on my way to take a linear algebra exam, which I aced. Friday the 13th is just another day.
Pick it up
I’ve broken mirrors, spilled salt, and opened umbrellas indoors, all without a second thought. But there’s one superstition that has settled in several years ago, unpacked its bags, and made itself at home. When I see a penny on the ground, I pick it up. Usually.
My only condition is that the penny has to be face-up. At one time I heard or read that if it’s tail-side up, all the luck has run out. So if it’s heads, it’s mine. Tails, and I pass it by.
I don’t know why this became my quirk. Rational Me knows that it makes no sense, that the existence and orientation of a stray zinc coin washed with copper can have no influence on my life. I understand that existence is one uncertainty after another, and the need to quell the fear that this can inspire, to seek order in a disordered world, can lead me to find meaning in meaningless events.
You’ll have good luck
From this point on, maybe I’ll start doing what some variations of the story behind the superstition describe, and turn over the pennies that are tails-side up so that someone else to have the luck. I could also dig more deeply into the history of this and other superstitions and use the information in stories.
And I will probably continue to collect pennies I find in the street. As long as they’re face-up.
If you’re curious, here’s an article with short histories of common Western superstitions, and one with more information about the penny legend.
(This post also appeared over at the BookView Café blog)