Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

July 26, 2013

Analyzing the luck of the drop

— — The view of the lake was beautiful and relaxing. The slight breeze and the shade of the trees were soothing. The bird poop that fell on my hand was ... good luck?

According to some traditions, when a bird drops its load on you, you are destined for a positive outcome. It could be, some say, because of the odds. The fact that you would be at the wrong place at just the wrong moment is so random that you are now due to be at the right place at the right moment.

One New Zealand man claimed that he won a lottery right after bird droppings landed on him. His friends told him that was a lucky sign. “I thought it was a load of rubbish, but when I was in a Lotto shop I had $5 left in my wallet so thought I would buy a ‘scratchie’ and test my luck,” he apparently told officials with New Zealand Lotteries. “I could not believe it when I scratched the right numbers and realized I had won $100,000.”

The odds were apparently in his favor after such unfavorable bird waste odds. But how random is it? According to some reports, birds produce their product about every 15 minutes. Considering how many birds there are, it’s probably random good luck that we don’t get doused every day.

Some think of it as a sign of “major wealth coming from heaven.” Because you’ve suffered this doodie denigration you are now deserving of a divine donation in turn. Right.

It made me think about other odd things we associate with good luck. Why, for example, do they say to a theatrical performer, “Break a leg!” Unless the wish is coming from the understudy waiting for his or her big break on stage, I don’t get it.

Apparently, it is bad luck in theater to wish someone good luck, so they came up with this expression for a fractured femur. Wikipedia has some interesting theories from contemporary writings where this greeting came from: 1). Bowing: To “break a leg” is archaic slang for bowing or curtsying; placing one foot behind the other and bending at the knee “breaks” the line of the leg. In theatre, pleased audiences may applaud for an extended time allowing the cast to take multiple curtain calls, bowing to the audience. 2). Greek: In ancient Greece they didn’t clap but stomped their feet in approval of a performance and, if they stomped long enough, they’d break a leg. Or in Elizabethan times the audience would bang their chairs on the ground, potentially breaking the leg of the chair rather than their own leg. 3). Rome: You know how Romans loved their “light-hearted” entertainment. Gladiators would fight to the death but spectators would sometimes shout “quasso cruris,” the Latin equivalent of “break a leg.” Somehow, this was translated in extremely violent ancient Rome as wishing them good luck by hoping they live and only cripple their opponent. 4).Yiddish/German. There’s some confusing mash up of some Yiddish and German phrases that sounded similar but meant success and blessing and neck and leg fracture.

Clearly, it is unclear what the exact source is for breaking one’s leg.

Of course, there are many other good luck symbols which make about as much sense: a four-leaf clover, a horseshoe (which if lost seems unlucky for the horse), crickets, lady bugs and a few other garden variety insects, rainbows, a rabbit’s foot, elephants, alligator teeth, and, with respect to faith traditions, a St. Christopher cross in your car and a St. Joseph statue buried upside down, facing your house if you are trying to sell it.

I wouldn’t have room for my cell phone and wallet if I had to carry around all of that for good luck. But better that than a bird poop.

I don’t remember having any particularly good luck after I received my airborne package delivery.  I just went inside to wash and re-wash my hands a few dozen times.

And decided I was lucky that it wasn’t an Eagle or a Canadian goose.

I don’t subscribe to the bad luck of walking under ladders, stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, having black cats cross my path or opening an umbrella inside. I might’ve made that last one up. But, what’s it matter?

Sometimes it is just random. It’s not good or bad luck. You just have to remember that and not get worked up one way or the other.

Sometimes, stuff happens. And it might land on you when it does.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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