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Hi. Welcome to the podcast, “A Thousand Words”, for March 15th, 2019.
This is my 13th podcast. 13! Are you superstitious ? I’m not. I believe in the good and bad luck of timing, of being in the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time. But superstition? Today, my story is about something that happened when I was at college a long time ago, about an idea that someone planted in my head which quietly grew over the years.
My son found an apprenticeship . He’s 15. When I was 15, I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was interested in baseball and movies and being in the ocean and riding my bike. When you’re 15 in the US, you don’t worry about apprenticeships. Usually, we finish high school at around 18 and can still flounder around  for years afterwards at a community college. A community college is a little bit like an apprenticeship - it offers classes and experiences in almost every subject you can think of - flower arrangements, film history, chemistry, fencing , auto mechanics, electrical engineering, cooking, sign language .
It’s at community college where my story begins.
After high school, I had a girlfriend who was deaf . She could read lips and we managed to communicate. But I took a sign language course at community college to learn her language. It was a single semester class, and I learned how to finger spell the alphabet, where to hold my hands when signing, basic vocabulary, and how to do the happy birthday song. On the last day of class, we went to a pizzeria. It was while we were finishing our pizzas when someone discovered that one of our classmates was a professional palm reader . Naturally, we all wanted her to read our palms.
“Wow,” she said when she came to mine. “Great lines! So creative!”
I asked her how she could see that.
“Just look at all these lines,” she said. “So many!”
I thought she probably said the same to everyone when she started with a person’s hands. I tried to remember how much we knew about each other from class. We never worked together in pairs the whole five months. We usually sat on opposite sides of the room.
“Are you right or left handed,” she asked.
“Right,” I said.
She explained that one palm was a blueprint  that showed what we were born with, all our possibilities; and the other hand showed what we’re doing with all our possibilities. I’m embarrassed that I can’t remember which is which, the left or the right.
“You have siblings ,” she said. “And you’re the middle child.”
“How could you know that?” I asked.
She turned one of my hands on its side and showed me where a line began that she called my lifeline. There were two tiny lines, one above it and one just below it.
“Those are your siblings,” she said. “Right there where your lifeline begins - one just in front, the other just behind it.”
I looked hard. Could those tiny marks on both sides of my lifeline really be my older and younger sisters, tattooed by fate ? Did I actually believe that? Or did she just guess  and was right?
“Oh!” she said suddenly.
“No, no! You can’t say Oh! and then say nothing. What did you see?”
“I don’t like telling people negative things about their future,” she said.
“Only positive?” I asked.
She looked at me and raised an eyebrow .
“There it is,” she said, looking back at my palm. “Right there.”
“In your 33rd year,” she said, “beware of curves.”
“Curves?” I asked.
“Curves.” She nodded.
“In my 33rd year?”
She looked at me and I could see that she was sad, like there was no way that what she saw in my hands would not come true . She put a sympathetic hand on my shoulder and then moved on to the next palm.
Now… I’m not superstitious. I don’t believe you can read a person’s future by looking at tea leaves or what’s left of coffee at the bottom of a cup. I don’t believe in astrology and its horoscopes, or fortune cookie messages. I don’t believe in the bad luck of black cats, the number 13, walking under ladders, or leaving hats on beds. I also don’t believe in the good luck of knocking on wood, crossing my fingers for people, or telling a person to break a leg before they go off to do something. So when she told me about the curves, I listened and gave her the proper smile of someone with my skepticism.
Years went by. I moved on from community college, my girlfriend and I split up, I went to San Francisco to finish university, I moved to Zürich and forgot all about curves.
But it was at some point right after I turned 32 when a voice started whispering to me – “Beware of curves.”
Woah ! Where did that come from, this voice by a woman whose name I couldn’t even remember? Where was that hiding all these years? Did I actually believe she saw that something awful was going to happen to me? Could my hands really show that? I mean, she did know about my sisters.
All I know is that the closer my 33rd birthday came, the more I thought about nothing but curves. Curves! They’re everywhere. On the long tram rides to work, curving through the city. The staircases I went curving up and down. Every year I went to the mountains – up and down sharp curving roads. Snakes curve when they move across the ground; should I stop going for walks in forests? Myintestines? – a lot of curving going on in there! McDonald’s food and its golden curved arches? Alcohol comes in curved bottles; would I develop a taste for alcohol? Sand dunes? Did I have any plans to visit a desert? Places where people throw boomerangs? Maybe one would hit the back of my head. Bananas? Rainbows that curve across the sky? Would I meet a woman, a curvy woman, a femme fatale? Should I avoid  women the whole year?
A superstitious person would probably avoid them all – the mountain roads, the forest paths, desert dunes, McDonald’s arches, curvy women.
A superstitious person.
But like I said, I’m not superstitious. Not at all. So it’s strange when I look back at what I did that whole year and compare it with what a superstitious person would do – step by step, the same. The moment I blew out  my 33 birthday candles, I avoided every possible curve. And why not? What did I have to lose? Better safe than sorry , right?
It was a long year. Probably the longest of my life. There are many curves out there to beware of. She might as well have told me to beware of the color green. When the year finally came to an end, I celebrated. I breathed easier. No curve got the better of me .
But… did I escape danger by being so aware? Did I outsmart a trap  that fate set for me? Or did I spend the whole year on high alert  for nothing? That I may never know.
One of the many wonderful things you can experience at a community college!
Thanks for listening.
If you liked this podcast, or others you’ve listened to on our website podclub.ch, tell a friend. You can also write us a message. As well, you can download our app if you’d like, and we have a vocabulary trainer to help you practice some of the new words you hear.
I’ll be back on March 29th with a story about the good and bad luck of timing.
Bye for now.