HEAD ABOVE WATER

★ ★ ★ ★

SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN

By Tim Clark

I am at least a little superstitious. I believe in talismans, charms, anything to keep me safe or give me an edge. I haven’t decided how well it has worked so far, maybe never, maybe always. But, it doesn’t change the way I feel. Hey, we all need something to believe in.

When I first became a supervisor I bought a new notebook (this was long before laptops and tablets) and a good pen. In the first week I spilled a whole cup of coffee on the notebook. In the distance I could hear thunder rumbling, and fluorescent lights flickered slightly. Fortunately, the notebook sopped up every cursed drop of that coffee and kept it from running over the side of the desk and soaking my pants, which would have been so humiliating in our morning production meeting. Those meetings were the reason I bought the notebook and pen in the first place.

I threw the dripping, ruined notebook into the trash can, grabbed a small, insignificant pad made for an hourly wage associate and swore softly when I couldn’t find my new pen. Armed with a small, insignificant unlined pad of paper, a cheap, giveaway pen advertising some local realtor I went to the meeting. To this day I can’t figure out if the notebook was lucky and saved me from going to the meeting with wet pants, second degree burns, causing my humiliating demotion so I would spend my career pressing buttons on a die cut machine; or whether I was cursed to a string of lateral moves where I was stuck between ungrateful, demanding mid-level managers and sullen, unwilling line employees, where I spent most of my time in a low level guerilla war sabotaging both sides, just for something to do.

I used to put on my socks and shoes in a very strict order when dressing for a basketball game. First I would put on my right sock, then my left sock then I would put on my right shoe, then my left shoe. Here is the genius part, I would tie my left shoe first and then my right shoe. This gave me a shield against injury and an extra boost of energy when the game was on tight and I needed to outwork my opponent.

One night I was backpedaling down the court, keeping an eye on the game, and stepped on the foot of a guy on my own team. In what has to be one of the oddest turns of luck I have ever experienced I broke my foot. I can still remember the pain, sometimes I can still feel the pain, shooting up my leg, into my back, I thought I had stepped on an electric outlet. It ended my “career.” I think about the order of dress that day, and wonder if I should have tied the right shoe first, or if the injury could have been worse.

For a while I sold folding bicycles. There is a big bike show in Las Vegas every year. People come from all over the world to buy and sell bicycles. It is the only time I’ve been there, I’m not really a gambler. It is a city built on superstition, people go there feeling lucky, the symbols are everywhere, clover leaves, rabbits’ feet, horseshoes, you can’t get away from it. One night I got bored so I went for a walk after dinner. I walked into a casino. Where else do you go in Las Vegas? It was fun, walking around the tables, looking at the determination etched across the brows of the gamblers. Even the people playing the slot machines were intense they all looked as if they could change the reality through sheer mental intensity. And nobody looked like they were having any fun. There is no luck in Las Vegas, only reality. They knew the odds were stacked against them and the end was coming, somebody else was going to take their chair, or stool, and they didn’t care. People are funny that way.

I have a friend, I guess he’s a friend, we work together, we’ve worked together for a long time, and I am always a little unsure when you cross that line. When do you leave the comfortable distance of co-worker for the contractual obligation of friendship? He invited me to a party at his house, so I guess we’re friends, but I haven’t had to help him move or anything so I’m not sure. Sometimes I don’t know how I made it this long, life is so confusing.

Anyway, he got married and honeymooned in Europe. When he got back he had this coin. It was big, like a silver dollar, and beautiful in the way of foreign money. American money is so bland, clinical, antiseptic I’m not sure why anybody would want to be a counterfeiter. I don’t know if he thought the coin was lucky, but I did. He had it for several years. He would take it out and flip it in the air, I was amazed at how he could catch it every time. It had to be lucky. One day he was flipping it while getting on the elevator and he missed the catch. It dropped down, clinking into the tiny space between the elevator box and the building floor. I didn’t want to get on the elevator with him. It had to be a bad sign. What if the coin was stuck in some elevator gear, or cable and caused some catastrophic failure? I felt like we should both take the stairs. He is still alive and well, and as far as I know the coin is still missing.

I’ve never really been too sure anything is working. Looking around, at my life, things could have gone a whole lot better, but I’m still alive to look around and that’s got to count for something. In the words of Springsteen, “I’ve got a new suit of clothes and a pretty red rose and a woman I can call my friend.” Who could ask for anything more? So, until next month “Good Luck!”, and it means something when I say it, I’m kind of an expert.

Tim Clark lives in Columbus, OH. He is an employee, a husband, a  father and a blogger. You can see his blog here, Life Explained. He writes occasionally and with pride for Street Speech, a local homeless advocacy newspaper. He is contributor for The Ugly Writers and the Good Men Project. He is particularly vain about his monthly column on The Wild Word. He is working on a novel.

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