This may sound strange to you, but I really don’t think that this is abnormal behavior. Lots of famous people have superstitions.
Winston Churchill, for example, petted black cats for good luck. Hitler planned major military battles on the seventh of the month because he favored the number 7. President Truman had a horseshoe over his office door at the White House. And Luciano Pavarotti never performed without a bent nail in his pocket.
So I would appreciate it if you would not consider it weird that I have a piranha head hanging in my car.
Before you ask, it is a real piranha head, complete with gills and really sharp teeth. The only fake thing about it is the eyes, which are actually stickers that are covering up what I would assume to be two empty eye sockets.
I prefer not to know.
Not only is it real, but it’s from Brazil. Really.
Last spring break, my friends Julia and Maria spent a couple weeks in Brazil. Usually, when someone goes on a trip and wants to get his or her friends some little gift, he or she comes back with a shot glass or key chain.
Julia and Maria came back with a piranha head.
Although I was planning to mount it on a large plaque and put it on a wall in my room, one day I found it had magically hung itself from the rearview mirror of my car, Max.
So I decided right there that it must be good luck.
Max needs about as much luck as he can get. When I bought him a year and a half ago, he was pretty beat up.
Max is a 1994 Camaro. His front bumper experienced a small fire before I gained ownership, and the interior carpeting and seats are home to what I would consider the largest collection of beverage and grease stains in the state.
But despite his flaws, I still love him, which is why I decided to leave the good luck piranha head hanging up.
However, no one informed me that lucky piranha heads have an expiration date. They’re fresh for about six months, according to my calculations.
The way I figure it, Julia and Maria probably gave me the piranha head in the latter part of April, after they returned from spring break. Six months later lands in October, which is when Max experienced the most traumatic 24 hours of his life.
It was in the mid to late part of October when I noticed something slightly alarming: Max’s right headlight had been shot out.
The way Max’s headlight system works is that there is a separate unit for the dim and bright lights on each side of the car. Max’s dim light was completely shattered, and the accompanying bright light was boasting a BB-like hole.
So I bought a new set of headlights and told Max that everything was going to be all right.
I hate it when I’m wrong.
Although the rest of the day went fairly smoothly, things got rocky again that night. As I was backing out of an unfamiliar driveway, this rather large electrical pole jumped out of no where, smashed into the back bumper of my car, and then darted away.
OK, so maybe I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention and smashed into the pole. Either way, Max jerked to a halt with a sick crumpling sound.
“Bleep,” I said, censored.
And things have just continually gotten worse.
Although Max promised me a long time ago that even if the needle is on “Empty,” I will still have plenty of gas to drive for a decent distance, I found myself sputtering to a stop only a block and a half from home.
So I blamed the piranha head.
Then the other night I spilled a completely full large cranberry limeade in the front seat because it tipped over and rolled out of the cup holder when I stopped at an intersection.
So it’s got to be the piranha head. My friend Ben, who also received a Brazilian piranha head, mentioned recently that his was disintegrating.
So my good luck charm is obviously wearing out. Maybe it’s time to retire the piranha head and get a different charm. I guess one option is the generic rabbit’s foot.
But then again, it obviously didn’t do much good for the rabbit.
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UFO: Throughout this superstitious column, I managed to use the phrase “piranha head” 13 times. Ironic, no?
Don’t ask why.