People at Yale are crazy. We work too much and think that talking about how much work we have is interesting and how little of it we are doing is funny. But maybe there is something more interesting about our idiosyncrasies. This reporter set out to explore the strange superstitions Yalies practice from the random sampling of people who appeared in the northwest quadrant of Cross Campus on Saturday, April 16, between 4:15 and 5:15 p.m.
Yale superstitions seem to come in two varieties: cultural and personal. Marina Miteva’s ’05 family, from Bulgaria, lavishes her with superstitions, which she takes seriously enough to describe in the first person. “I cannot give the first or last bite or sip of anything I eat or drink to anyone else, or they will steal my love,” she says. “I cannot sit on stone. If I sit on cold stone, my body will get cold, and I won’t be able to have children. I cannot sit on the edge of a table, or I won’t get married.”
But many of the superstitions in the Yale community result from personal trauma.
Family-oriented but only flimsily inherited is K.C. Harrison’s GRD ’09 superstition about dating. “I have these [three tortoise shell] bracelets that my mom gave me,” she says. “And I never wear them when I think I’m going to be dirty on a date because I’m afraid I’ll look down and see them and think of my mother.” This may remind some readers of Freud, but of those leisurely lying on Cross Campus in this magic hour, only George Bremser ’49, was alive while Sigmund’s thoughts on neuroses began to define Yalies’ strange rituals. Bremser’s superstition is about Friday the 13th, but not the way you’d think.
“Years ago,” he says, “I worked for a company where the founder had a great stroke of luck on a Friday the 13th. So he made the telephone number 07600 — this was the old phone number system — where all the numbers add up to 13, and the executive offices were on the 13th floor. When I opened up a Miami branch of the office, he ensured that we were on the 13th floor of the building.”
As the final minutes of the experimental hour drew to a close, theater studies professor Toni Dorfman strides across the grass. It is 5:15, and she is on her way to the Whitney Humanities Center, where “The Winter’s Tale,” which she directs, is being performed at 8. She says she has no superstitions, but respects the superstitions of others: no whistling in the dressing rooms, always use artificial flowers not live flowers on stage for props, never say ‘Macbeth.'”
And she is off. “Good luck on your article,” she says, and this reporter almost says, “Good luck on your play,” but doesn’t, remembering, “Break a leg.”