One of the great novelties of life is the nonchalance with which tiny, seemingly inconsequential actions can lead to massive shifts and changes in your world not too far down the line. You stroll past these moments without seeing them for what they are. Meeting a future partner, leaving your wallet in a shop, ending up in a new career through chance. Then it is only with retrospect that you can piece it all back together and trace the way the paths link and intertwine.
Inversely, some tiny actions or details in life have significance placed on them by society for little reason. A black cat crosses your path, you open an umbrella inside, you walk under a ladder. You find a four leaf clover, a horseshoe, or you touch wood. And miraculously, nothing changes either way. Or does it?
Society is divided into two groups - you're either superstitious or you're not, and I'd have to be down as someone who isn't, or wasn't.
So when I spilled salt in the pantry the other morning, you can probably picture that my reaction was not to grab a pinch and throw it over my left shoulder, but rather to exclaim "holy s***, I've just spilt slightly over a kilogram of salt absolutely everywhere!".
Although I must note that the idea of grabbing a pinch to toss around (into the face of the devil, apparently) did come to mind, so ingrained (excuse the pun) are these superstitions in our society. Maybe I even would have, had the concept of distributing the crystals even further afield not been such a terrifying thought in that moment, surrounded by so much white powder that it gave flashbacks to the finale of Scarface.
I swept it up, threw it out, and moved on with my morning without any fear. I had a big day ahead, after all, and was now behind schedule. From the pantry, I put on my socks and shoes and bolted out the door to the car, heading to a meeting.
Anyone who knows me knows that I hate the beach. Why, you ask? Because the beach is covered with sand. Then when you leave the beach, you are covered with sand. Which in turn means that everything you come in contact with is coated with sand, forever.
The grains are little rogues, deviants, troublemakers. They spread far and wide and exist to create aggravation by standing out from the normal, the smooth. They are the kids in class who act up and ruin it for everyone else. They are the egotists at work functions who steer the conversation their way by one-upping your story. They are the people who make abhorrent statements just to draw a reaction. I hate sand.
So 13 minutes down the road, as I drove along merrily, I was mortified to wiggle my toes about my socks and find sand - or what I thought was sand. Of course, it was salt. I had been a-salted.
Now I'm not too sure whether this was a normal course of action to take or not, but bear with my thinking for a minute. I just couldn't have the salt in my sock any longer. It was bearable for another 10 minutes perhaps, but by then I would be at my meeting, and I thought better than to whip my shoe and sock off and fossick around between my toes looking for rogue grains of invisible salt while meeting someone. I was compelled to get it out of my sock now.
By now the urgency was building, like those pivotal moments when your bladder is being stretched to its limits but you've made it to the front door, only for the intensity to somehow rise even higher as you're fumbling to get the key into the lock. That is the point I was at, as the solution to the discomfort was in sight- the world was a blur, the sole focus was on getting the car stationary to get my sock off.
I pulled over to the side of the road, and in my blind determination drove through a nice big patch of broken glass. In that moment, I felt connected to a car in a way I never have before. We were one and the same - our feet both being assailed by small sharp grains.
Thankfully, my problem was solved, but not far up the road another problem arose. Car tyres hate glass more than I hate sand.
That's the story of how I became superstitious, as I found myself changing a tyre on the side of the road, late for a meeting, all thanks to spilt salt. Maybe if I had thrown those grains over my shoulder, I could have laughed in the face of the devil and continued on in peace. If only.
Tough times call for tough decisions. I've dropped my black cat off to the SPCA (they did an excellent trade-in deal on a rabbit, although I only need the foot). I've traded every mirror in the house out for one of those polished bits of stainless steel they have in public bathrooms (thanks to the rogue grains of societal sand who can't be trusted). And don't worry mum, now the I've got the salt out of my shoes I'm far less likely to absentmindedly step on a crack.