All superstitious people start their superstitious stories by saying:
"I’m not superstitious…but…"
and I’m not a superstitious person.
I am not interested in ouija boards or ghost hunters or psychic readings or UFOs.
The sky was mist and the rain was coming and going. I was walking through the seaside shrine in Miyajima, a labyrinth of over-water walkways surrounded by bright orange beams of wood and I saw a humble cedar sign offering fortune telling in exchange for a 100 yen donation, which is about a dollar.
I would never do this. But…
A lacquered wooden chest held 40 small drawers and inside each of them was a note on translucent paper, all in Japanese. I was to shake a box of numbered sticks until one prominently presented itself to me. Then, I was to match the number on my stick to the drawer, open the drawer, and read my future on the provided paper.
Normally I would just laugh at this, but…
36 was my number. 100 Yen poorer, I excitedly opened the drawer, wondering what awaited me. Happiness? Power? No more dentist visits?
Looking as helpless as I am, I was lucky to get some help from a passing woman named Yuhko. She offered to help me translate and I proudly presented her my fortune. Her English wasn’t perfect, but it was 1,000 times better than my Japanese, so I was immensely grateful. Here ya go!
Her face dropped immediately. She didn’t want to read it.
She shook her head, and began…
“Your luck…is the worst. You are the worst. It’s not so bad. But it’s the worst. You should do nothing.”
“What? That’s it?”
“No, would you like me to read more?”
“Please. I’m fine,” I lied.
“Your luck very bad. In matching, like love, you will not find. In gambling, you will lose all you have. Do not move where you live. It will be worse. If you have disease you cannot cure it. It’s better to believe in God because you cannot fix it.”
“Great. Is that it?” I asked.
“Also, do not travel. Do not go East. East is worst direction.”
Well, I’m flying back to Los Angeles tomorrow. And that’s East. And that’s travel. What else you got?
“In business, you will fail. Your family will not be good.”
At this point I’m sure I looked pale and Yuhko was kind enough to make me feel better.
“Do not worry. Luck can not get worse. Try again next year!”
I thanked Yuhko and walked away with the fortune folded in my back pocket, where I keep all terrible news about how my life is going to be a disaster.
Walking back to the hotel I walked by a much smaller Shinto shrine and the sign in front offered wish granting and requested a donation.
I’m not superstitious.
I bowed twice, clapped twice, prayed for my fortune to be revoked, bowed again, left a small donation to the shrine and then I departed. I did everything according to protocol.
I hope things work out. But what am I saying? Nothing is different than it was yesterday. This is all super silly. I don’t believe in any of this. But you better believe I’ve uttered another silent prayer or two since then. To who? To whoever will listen. I’ll literally shout it out to the world.
Okay, let me be clear I’ll do anything to make sure this fortune doesn’t mean anything. I’ll sacrifice some leaves. I’ll spin around and sit and swirl salt water in my mouth. I’ll stand on one foot and bleat like a sheep. I’ll do anything. Please. Please. Please.
I’m not superstitious.