Stevie Wonder, Ladders and My New Nike Shoes

10.18.17_Features_Benjamin Pulgar-guzman_Friday the 13th_Benjamin Pulgar-guzman

Courtesy of Benjamin Pulgar-Guzman

Benjamin Pulgar-Guzman
Staff Writer

Friday was the last Friday the 13th of the year. Which is why I went out of my way to bring bad luck to my already devil-ridden life.

Before I set out on my quest, I wanted to learn about what exactly I was getting into. The origins of this culturally held belief is hard to pinpoint. The most accepted theory is “The Last Supper Theory,” which revolves around the 13 guests who sat with Jesus the day before the Friday in which he was crucified.

This is a mostly western held belief. For many Central and South American countries, their bad-luck day is Tuesday the 13th. In Italy, the number 13 is considered good luck while Friday the 17th is considered bad luck.

But the inability of universalizing this superstition did not stop it from becoming a widespread phenomenon. There have been numerous amounts of movies, comics, books and even music inspired by this folklore. So, I took it upon myself to ask the inquisitive and deep question of, ‘What’s up with that?’ And there was only one way of answering that question: by doing everything I was not supposed to do.

I was ready. I woke up Friday the 13th prepared to take more than my daily dose of bad luck. I had compiled a list of things to do: walk under a ladder, open an umbrella indoors, spill salt and see a black cat. First thing was first, the umbrella. It was raining in the morning so I, ironically, ran to my car, grabbed my umbrella and waited till I was back in my apartment. I opened it, and my journey began. As dramatic as I was when I opened the umbrella, I felt no different. Wet but no different. That was okay though. I had many more chances to really destroy any hope for a good day.

I inspected my surroundings a little more cautiously than usual. If bad luck were to happen to me, I had to be ready. I shortened my list during lunch. Each table in the EUC has a pepper shaker and a salt shaker. I looked over my shoulders to see if anyone was paying attention to the huge risk I was about to take. I took a deep breath and spilled the salt and flinched. I looked around, but I again felt no different. I stared at the white particles on the table.

I went about my day, getting increasingly frustrated as I got an A on my quiz, I did not lose any of my belongings and all my friends still thought I was an “ok” person.

“No,” I told them, “You’re supposed to not like me for some odd, mysterious reason!”

“Dude,” my friend Trevor Jeffries, 20, said to me. “You have to relax man. Maybe you’re paying too much attention. Just go about your day completing your list and don’t be so on edge all the time.” He was right. Every time I completed something on my list, I constantly waited for bad luck to show up as if it would physically manifest itself and slap me across the face. I took a deep breath and went about my day normally.

I pulled into a parking space at my apartment and sat in my car, thinking about the things I was supposed to do for the rest of the day. Then, I saw something on my rearview mirror, something that moved quickly. I got out of my car, and I looked around when I remembered that two black cats and one white cat live nearby and are always in and out of my apartment parking lot. This was my chance.

I started to jog to the place where I thought I saw it when I stopped myself. ‘I’m trying too hard. Let the bad luck come to you’ I thought. I shrugged my shoulders and turned back to my car to get my bookbag when I saw it. It stood there, near my back wheel, staring. Now, I felt the bad luck, and it was haunting. It quickly made its way back into a wooded area, and I laughed out loud. The black cat may have appeared, but it was the bad luck I wanted to confront now.

On Fridays, I normally go back home and spend some time with my family till Saturday afternoon when I make my way back to Greensboro, so I made the 40 minute drive to Winston-Salem without any bad luck showing up, thankfully. North Carolina drivers are bad enough. I did some chores and did not pay much attention to my list until I was reminded of it by social media. It was a meme about Jason Vorhees, the main character of Friday the 13th franchise, and how he just wanted friends. It was interesting to say the least. Anyhow, the last thing on my list was to walk under a ladder.

I knew no one in Greensboro who just happened to have a ladder hanging around, but my family had one in the shed. It was dark by this point of the day, and I had to make an extra effort taking it out. I set it up and wiped my hands together. This was the last thing to do. I had come a long way. Time flies. I took a deep breath and walked underneath it, my eyes closed. I opened them and stood in the dark, crickets taking over the air. I turned around and looked with a disappointed stare at the ladder. “You failed at your job, man.” I said to it. Half of me was hoping it would turn around and say, “What, you expect immediate gratification, punk?” but it just stood there alongside me under the night sky and said nothing.

I walked backed in the house with my head low and my luck still good. Maybe bad luck just wasn’t attracted to me? Maybe bad luck found someone else, someone better – or worse I guess? I was thinking too much about it now. I decided to text an old friend who was on her fall break. She was on her way to Barnes and Nobles to do some studying, so I decided to join her to take my mind off my crumbling relationship with this superstition, that probably did not even have a clue of how it was affecting me. They never do. I parked and gathered my things. I opened my car door, and it happened.

Without realizing it, I stepped in the biggest puddle I had ever stepped in. And to make matters worse, I was wearing my new pair of Nike shoes. My initial reaction was complete and utter rage. I yelled some obscenities as I jumped out of my car, my shoes drenches almost to my ankles. I looked at the puddle, and I was furious. ‘I had spent all day trying for bad luck to happen to me, and I did my whole list and—wait.’ That was when I realized this WAS my bad luck. It came to me! I was mad that my new shoes were the victims of a blind-sided attack, but it was no matter. Superstition finally transformed itself and presented itself to me as bad luck, and I was both mad and happy.

There are no studies linking bad luck and Friday the 13th, yet many people still believe it to be true. That is the definition of superstition. There may not be any justifiable reason as to why anyone would believe such a thing, but the phenomenon still dwells within western culture. What can be taken from my own personal experience is to have fun with it. Go to the 13th floor of a building, stay in a hotel room number 13 and spill some salt (but pick it up and don’t leave a mess). I made my way back home that night with a smile as I blasted Superstition by Stevie Wonder at 11:11 p.m. while I made a wish.

Categories: Features, Human Interest


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