I have a number of habits, but at least one of them is almost a compulsion. (Maybe more than one, but let’s put that aside for now.) I can’t seem to avoid saying ‘knock on wood’ when talking about something that I’m hopeful will turn out well.
Of course I’m not alone. Knocking on wood — or in some cases just touching it — to avoid a jinx has been a common practice for many years in most parts of the world. But even though I seldom actually knock, I do say the words, and I think it all started about thirty years ago.
In the early days of personal computing there were various companies jostling for the attention of those of us who were fascinated by them. The choices were all very expensive, so when I finally took the plunge it was a big financial commitment, one that required some creative thought. After all, a computer so primitive that it used a portable TV for a monitor, complete with a floppy disk drive and a dot-matrix printer, could easily total up to $2000 — a lot of money at that time. (Not that it isn’t a lot now, but you know what I mean.)
The Atari 800 was my computer of choice and I tried to save money by buying an off-brand floppy disk drive. A company named Rana had a brand-new model designed specifically for the Atari (which was an unusual idea at the time) and it was much cheaper than Atari’s own.
The Rana drive did just fine at first, but eventually it began having mysterious lapses. It would just stop working for no apparent reason, only to just as suddenly restart and work normally. This was an era of short warranties and no internet to peruse for info so my solution was to grit my teeth and ‘knock on wood’ every time I used it. In fact, it became a running joke with a friend of mine. Every time we talked computing and the Rana came up in conversation I would compulsively say ‘knock on wood’ and usually rap on my desk too.
Maybe I should have knocked on the Rana instead.