My wife likes to bring home furniture that she finds on the street. Not all furniture, just stuff she thinks would look good in our house with the other stuff that she's found on the street or in a skip or being given away for free on the local community forum or whatever. It's kind of awesome and she's found some very nice stuff over the years which we've cleaned up or restored and, in some cases, sold on for a healthy profit.
A few years ago, my wife saw a nice leather chair on the street that someone had left out for anyone to take. She thought it would look nice in our house and suggested we take it home.
"Someone's probably peed on it," I said. It was an off-the-cuff remark. I didn't even think about it as I said it. But my wife looked at me like I was crazy, reminding me that it's just possible that not everyone thinks the way I do about stuff.
Now, I'm sure I'm not the only one with such idiosyncratic beliefs, but they're the kind of thing that can make the difference between an enjoyable dinner party and a stunned silence. The sort of silence that usually greets far more dramatic announcements like "I'm not your uncle, I'm your sister" or "I only have one testicle" or "You're eating him right now!".
Here's a small sampling of things I believe to the very core of my being and that influence my actions on a daily basis, some of which may or may not be commonly held beliefs.
- Every piece of furniture that you see outside, ie left on the street or in a skip, has been peed on by someone or something. Recently.
- If I walk under an archway of any description, something non-specifically terrible will happen to someone - possibly me - in the near to long-term future.
- It is perfectly reasonable to assume that all public toilets have security cameras hidden in them somewhere and people should act accordingly when going and not be at all surprised should footage of them taking a dump appear online in the future.
- Everyone can hear me when I chew and is simply too nice to say anything.
- Animals may be spying on us for reasons known only to themselves.*
- When standing near the edge of any rail platform, there is a 20% chance that someone will push me onto the tracks by accident. There is a 12% chance that it will be done on purpose.
- I have something stuck in my teeth.
- When I forget to do up the zipper on my trousers, I will not notice it until I have spent a large part of the day walking around with my hands in my pockets effectively flashing the entire world a glimpse of my underpants.**
- If someone farts near me on public transport, everyone around me will assume that I'm the one who dealt it.
- Bus drivers ignore me at bus stops on purpose. It doesn't matter how many people are waiting for the same bus, the driver will drive on past just to spite me specifically.
- If I see a penny, I must pick it up - not, as the saying goes, so that "all that day I'll have good luck" but as a way to counteract the massive list of bad luck that I've built up due to stuff I've already done.
- If I say, out loud, that something good is going to happen, the very act of saying it out loud will ruin any chance of it ever happening. This isn't so much a belief as just good sense.
There are more, but you get the idea. Besides, I'm not going to do anything crazy like include a 13th thing on this list (or any other lists) because, you know, whatever that thing is will end up being an absolute disaster and it could wind up killing me through some as yet unknown but deeply interconnected series of events.
I suppose I take some solace from the fact that my wife's superstitions run even deeper, weirder and more specific than mine - she will tell me to knock on wood three times when she reads point number six above, "just in case" - but the fact is that the mere act of writing and posting this piece means that I'm probably bringing down the wrath of the universe on my head. I just hope it was worth it.
At least I haven't been peed on. Yet.
UPDATE: See!? This is what I'm talking about. Everything, absolutely everything has been peed on by someone or something recently.
* I have no proof of this, it's just a suspicion. But I'm keeping my eyes open. Pigeons in particular seem well placed for this kind of animal espionage, though there are at this very moment five cormorants perched high above my head and looking down on my office FOR NO APPARENT REASON. Make of that what you will.
** This is not so much a belief as something that has happened to me more than once and is therefore an unavoidable pattern. I've come to terms with it.