Luck be a lady tomorrow

Tomorrow will be the “luckiest” day in a long time (7/7/07 – triple lucky number seven). Every wedding venue is booked, pregnant women are taking long walks and eyeing the castor oil, Vegas is the center of the universe. Countless bloggers around the world are speculating what the formula might bring: conversations probably not much different than our star-gazing counterparts a hundred or a thousand years ago. Then, it was about magic and superstition; now, it is about … magic and superstition.

Luck is a word that hangs in the same bar having drinks with Fate, Free Will, Omniscient Beings, and Coincidence. (Serendipity prefers high tea.) Together, they form a gang of constructs that attempt explanations for human events. We seem to need lots of reasons for why stuff happens to us. Without reasons we can’t assign meaning. Without meaning, life is just a bleak string of stimulus and response. “Shit happens” is a cute bumper sticker but not a comforting narrative.

Luck is the fun word in this list of more sober philosophies, a spry little Loki epitomized by talismans and Chinese dragons. Luck invites us to act. We do things for luck: pick up pennies, kiss the dice, cross our fingers, knock on our heads in search of wood and laugh every time. Good luck makes us special, bad luck gets us off the hook. Both are dots that, when connected, make recognizable pictures that we can color with bright, broad scribbles. Luck is not as complex as religion. It is simply a jump for joy or a shrug, a net that captures the fish tales of life.

I have never won anything, never dreamed of glowing numbers, and never rushed with confidence to buy a lottery ticket. I have wished people “good luck,” but what I really meant was: “I hope you practiced enough,” or “I hope you do not injure yourself because of your own or someone else’s errors,” or “Hurry up and get done so we can go out.” Truthfully, I don’t believe in luck. I say it because all those other statements would be perceived as unkind. They might make the person feel nervous or even responsible if they failed. Luck is so embedded in our societal consciousness that we hope for it even if we know it is silly. Yet, as we scoff at the very idea, we clutch a rabbit’s foot in our collective pocket, just in case. We transfer luck to the T-shirt we were wearing on our last perfect day — a lighter, easier version of faith.

In surveying the gang of explanations, I flirt with equal hubris between Free Will and Coincidence. Fate and God are depressing and stodgy; Luck and Serendipity seem rogue and capriciously attracted to prettier, more popular girls. If I land on my butt, I can accept my own complicity. If I am brilliant, I will gratefully cite support and privately gloat. Either way, I’d rather get messy than depend on, or deign to, a lucky break.

So what does tomorrow mean for me? I am working, teaching a class on product to new employees. Will I be especially fabulous because I am teaching something I enjoy and have taught a zillion times or because it is the luckiest day of the year? If I do not get in a car accident on the way home, will it be because I just got a ticket recently and I am being extra careful or because it is the luckiest day of the year? What if I find a twenty dollar bill on the street? What if just miss the lurching freight train that could add fifteen extra minutes to my commute? What if I find that lousy grasshopper that is eating my roses and stomp on it? Lucky for me? Not so lucky for the grasshopper.

That is the conundrum of loving Luck. In asking for the Lady to be with us tonight, she must walk away from another lover. Perhaps tomorrow, she will have enough magic to share with all of us.

9 responses to “Luck be a lady tomorrow”

  1. so many funny lines in this, but i especially like this one:

    Lucky for me? Not so lucky for the grasshopper.

    I think I’ll insert that into my phrase book.


  2. Dave says:

    In college I developed a Theory of Luck. Every person is born with a fixed but unknown quantity of luck. When something lucky happens to you, your luck supply is depleted, until finally your luck runs out — the End. My expositions of this theory annoyed one roommate in particular because, while it has no explanatory value, it’s not falsifiable, either.

  3. stephanie wells says:

    Although I am an “academic” by trade, I wouldn’t dream of passing by a penny without picking it up (if I ever do because I’m too self-conscious in front of people, I can’t shake it and always have to go back for it to avoid the juju), Ditto walking under a ladder, or even letting a black cat cross my path–I’ll cross the street first. As for quotas, though, I’d like to think Lady Luck is enough of a tart to grace many of us at once with her generous love.

  4. wayne says:

    Dave, in your grand unified Theory of Luck is there any thing I can do to increase my unknown luck supply, even a little? Do any of Pandora’s actions work (“pick up pennies, kiss the dice, cross our fingers, knock on our heads in search of wood and laugh every time”)? When something terribly unfortunate occurs, is there a luck rebate?

  5. Tim Wager says:

    I am extremely superstitious. It baffles Jen, because she thinks my education should have drilled it out of me. Some things lie beyond the reach of learning, however. I attribute all that head-and-wood-knocking and penny-picking-up (only, though, if it’s heads up) to my Welsh blood. Essentialist, yes, but there you have it.

  6. PB says:

    Dave, I offered your theory to one of my friends over dinner tonight. She was rather disturbed by it. Later, when we found out that our entire parking fee was waived by a validation, she said, “great, now I have less luck for later.” You are changing lives.

    Also today I met a woman whose daughter is turning 7 tomorrow, how cool is that?

    And stephanie, I agree, she is more a tart than a lady.

  7. p: i never got a chance to say that this post reminded me of this one, and this.

  8. Logan says:

    Selfish comment: 7/7/07 was my 7 year anniversary with our mutual employer. Lucky for me? No… 7 year itch? I say, YES. Always a pleasure to read your posts.