The Pleasures of Life Dept.

Be Prepared

Malevolent Mercury will strike again

By Beth MacDonald

I never gave any credence to things like virtual chain letters, ghost stories, urban legends, or certain celestial events that are credited with affecting our wellbeing. The dire consequences if we should fail to pass them along, conjure them through a mirror, or change our travel plans never fazed me. All of that changed when Mercury went into retrograde last March.

When Mercury goes into retrograde it’s like a fortune cookie telling you to hide under your bed in the fetal position until that pesky planet goes back into prograde, whatever that is. But, make no mistake, Mercury was out to get us. The Old Farmer’s Almanac practically said so directly. Prograde may sound like a cherry flavored sports drink crammed full of electrolytes, but according to Google it’s a real live astrological term. And we were in desperate need of it.

After having a series of impossibly negative days during this mystical Mercury interlude — the kind that makes you want to eat a pint of ice cream and cry into a bag of Doritos — I called my friend Sara. Everything was wrong. Whah, whah, whah. Her reply, “Mercury’s in retrograde.” Oh, fine. Would I be protected from it if I passed that message through Facebook to 10 friends?

I had to go to a legitimate, reputable, scholarly source to research this phenomenon. I went back to Google. Of course, my studies at the University of Google taught me to go to the first link that popped up. The Old Farmer’s Almanac: the preeminent source on all things astronomy. Indeed, Mercury was in retrograde.

That meant I could blame everything on that fact and that fact alone. Potential disasters included, but were not limited to, electronics going on the fritz; travel plans being disrupted; a state of confusion (how this differs from my every day life I’m not sure); and a preoccupation with the past. I’d also be blaming any future weight gain on Mercury. It still sounded like nonsense. I wasn’t a true believer until the Ides of March confirmed the credibility of my Doctorate in Googling.

On a brisk morning, after my usual Friday Trash Dash/Cardio HIIT, I was energized and up for the day, ready to do some work. I needed a pen from my car. How all the pens in my home ended up in my locked car is not relevant to this story but if you were to imagine the magic brooms in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice that’s not far wrong. I unlocked the car from the kitchen, proceeded outside, only to find the car door was still locked. I must have hit the wrong button. It was early. I’m blind. I went back in, looked at the correct button, watched the car unlock, went back out to the car, and it was still locked. Dang. Back outside with the keys. This time, I got a pen. Mission accomplished. Call me Ethan Hunt.

I continued on with business as usual. An old friend from 20 years ago messaged me about some people we used to hang around with and how she ran into one of them. We reminisced for a little while over that. Ah, the good ‘ol days. Was I preoccupied with the past? I decided to switch gears and do some writing on the back porch. I left my phone inside.

The second I closed the door I heard the wireless lock click. My eyeballs bulged. I checked my pockets for my phone. The only way to lock the door from the outside was with my phone paired near the lock. I pressed my face to the glass door; my phone was nowhere to be seen. How could this be? Now the dogs were barking at me from inside, like a chorus of lunatics. Fantastic. Surely, Mercury was to blame for this howling opera, too.

Why does Mercury have to be so singularly unpleasant? Why can’t it make my hair soft, my hands surgically precise with eyeliner, or my bank account swell? It should have enough power to, at the very least, make my TV work for me and not against me — the volume is either too loud or too soft; I hit the wrong application button every time, and never know where to find which program on whatever media it’s streaming on. Mercury must have dug in for the long haul. Maybe Skynet could take over Alexa and play elevator music 24/7 or Siri could reply to a simple question with a stream of four-letter words or Google Maps could give me directions to places I don’t want to go, like Detroit. 

According to “The Never Wrong Old Farmer’s Almanac,” Mercury was in retrograde for almost the entire month of March. I believe it. Worse yet, it would be back in this bothersome position in July. So, in preparation, I’m cleaning out the dust balls, abandoned dog toys and unpaired socks from under my bed. I plan to be there with a bag of Doritos, writing chain letters on the 4th.  PS

Beth MacDonald is a Southern Pines suburban misadventurer who likes to make words up. She loves to travel with her family and read everything she can.

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