Who knew it was a cultural thing? I'm just back in Port of Spain from some time in Manhattan which might be why I'm noticing things I hadn't before...or had and forgotten. Such as pennies on the ground. I'd never noticed so many pennies on the ground before.
You don't see many coins on the ground in Manhattan. If you do, they are usually in front of a street person who's stacking them, counting them, or otherwise keeping close watch on them while hoping they'll multiply.
It's pre-Carnival in Trinidad, which means:
Steel Pan Bands are practicing in every pan yard, roadsides and on the Savannah, boisterously & loudly.
Everywhere, every night--parks, stadiums, parishes, neighborhoods--are fetes.
Folks who don't like parties, Soka music blaring from thumping speakers, being "on de road" playing Carnival, are packing up.
And gyms are crowded cause everyone's on a post holiday tone-up in preparation for squeezing into their carnival costumes.
Saturday night, Curtis and I attended the Victoria Garden Fete. Upon hearing "Fete" and "Victoria Garden" together, you might imagine this:
Trinidad's "Victoria Garden" Fete is like this by daylight.
After nightfall, once the band's warmed up, it's like this:
Back to the pennies: It was closing in on nightfall when I spotted a crumbled wad of money on the ground near one of the drinks tents. Not pennies, bills. TT dollars are colorful: pink, purple, blue. Unlike US greenbacks, they couldn't be camouflaged by the lawn. The fete, while crowded, was not that crowded... No way could I have been the only person to spot the wad. Yet no one else stooped to pick them up. Why?
Expecting I might be on Candid Camera, that the wad of bills must be attached to an invisible string everyone else knew about, that as soon as I reached for it the wad would be jerked away, but too frugal to ignore found money, I scooped it up. Then looked around, expecting someone to have seen me. Or to be looking around for their lost bankroll. To say something...
I unfolded the bills. They looked real enough. Not play money or coupons. Then quickly, without counting it, I handed it to a gal working in the drinks tent. "Someone dropped this," I explained.
She was clearly taken aback. Thinking she was thinking I was looney for giving away money, I shrugged it off and hurried off to catch up with Curtis and our friends.
Of course, hawk-eye Curtis, had seen the entire exchanged. So, I explained to him and our friends, how I'd found it. The woman we were with looked horrified.
"Oh, NO!" She said. "NEVER pick up money."
Trini superstition, it turns out, has it that lost money carries the bad luck "mojo" of whomever lost it. Thus, by picking money up off the ground, one could also pick up the bad mojo it carried.
Was it true? Do superstitions cross borders? Or do we carry them with us? Is it you believe your way and I believe mine? Or is it more "When in Rome-ish"?
Getting to the point: Does picking up a found penny--or dollars--bring good luck? Or were the rest of my days going to suck?
In hindsight, if I had it to do over again, I'm still not sure what I would have done. What about you?
What of the fate of the woman working in the drinks tent? By giving her the crumpled wad of cash had I, albeit unwittingly, cursed her with bad luck mojo, too?
My friend laughed. "She didn't pick it up. You did!"
Ahhh so that's how it works. Culture counts.