Joseph j Kozma
Imagine that it is spring. The air is crisp. You can taste the moisture in the air, it is sweet.
Imagine that you live and practice medicine in Waverly. Every morning around seven thirty you drive to Jacksonville to make hospital rounds. The morning air invigorates you and your brain works overtime.
That “you” was I.I started practicing in Waverly in 1955, in October. In 1956 when this story took place I knew every little lump in IL104. It does not take long to know the road that you have or like to travel on. After having made hospital rounds I was back in my office by nine.
There is a “dip” in Il104 between Waverly and Franklin around Waverly Lake, a small valley really; where on both sides of the road the trees are greener in the summer and the branches whiter in the winter; there is a hum that accompanies the grinding of the tires. I was driving west, observing the speed limit, when a deer crossed the road ahead of me followed by a beautiful, long haired black cat. They were taking their time, I had to slow down. It was an unusual sight. It seemed that they knew each other; they may have even been friends.
In the doctor’s lounge a small group of doctors gathered, They were doing the same thing as I; made rounds , visited a little mostly about their difficult cases and a small amount of politics and gossip too.
My encounter with the deer and the cat just had to be communicated. As I finished my story, simply and without embellishment, I heard a raspy voice:” Did you turn around”? That came from Charley Johnston (Charles Johnston MD) who was also practicing in Waverly. The question surprised me.I had the habit to analyze a question quickly before answering. At that point I had no idea what he was talking about. I guess I looked dumb because he answered his own question: “I would have”. Now it was my turn: “Why”? Then somebody said:” Charley is superstitious, that’s why”. At that point I underwent a quick mental-quake and wondered if we were in the twentieth century? Then I asked when he turned around on the sight of a crossing cat.” Not too long ago”, he said “I was at Mrs. Tuckers when a pretty Siamese looking cat crossed. The look does not matter. That is bad luck either way. I drove back home. Pulled into the drive. Turned off the motor then turned it back on and started again”.
As I think about this example of superstition I remember an article in an old Paris Match, over four pages long, listing all kinds of events that can usher in or out luck or bad luck. The writer Gilles Tirichard lists all kinds of examples. As one reads them, it becomes more and more complicated even contradictory: one event brings luck in one country but bad luck in another.
Imagine now that you are in France and you are visiting a friend whose house shows these features: Garlic on the front door, horseshoe in the lobby, four- leaf clover on the walls, horn of plenty in the kitchen, thirteen ears of corn on the dining room table, lucky cows crocheted into the curtains. Your friend just saw a black cat crossing the street: now she will not open an umbrella all day, no matter what, and will not sweep until tomorrow. That is not all. She will wash the floor of the entry hall with champagne and will pour salt in the crevices and cracks. All these items and actions mean protection. Allegedly some thirty percent of the people wherever they are located believe in the magic power of certain numbers, days, objects, animals and colors to provide good luck or cause catastrophe. This may be an exaggeration but certain experts claim that it is how the Universe communicates and in some people that replaces religious beliefs.
I was exposed to superstitions at an early age. Around ten or so, along with my friends, I practiced pulling off the petals of a daisy and kept counting: “loves me, loves me not”, then we switched to pull our eye lashes and counted the ones between our fingers. I don’t remember how that was interpreted. Itchy eyes announced visitors today or tomorrow depending which eye made the prediction.
Volumes and volumes can be said about superstition but let’s stop here. If you are comfortable with your brand, bundle up with it and be happy.