the egg of good luck

egghead "bookhead"
Another Egghead, this one is called “Bookhead”, by Robert Arneson (1991). It is located outside the Shields Library at UC Davis. There is a legend that students touch it for good luck. Really. I think that is one of those things that people just say, and then people do because people just say, “it’s a tradition”.  It’s one of those things that people say because there are no other interesting stories to tell about it. Yes, I know this old trope, I used to be a tour guide too. “Legend has it the lions in Trafalgar Square will get up and dance if Big Ben strikes thirteen,” that sort of thing. Nonsense with no evidence at all. Or “Charles Dickens used to drink here, even the plaque outside says so,” when he may have popped in for a pint on his way to his next bar; he drank in pretty much every pub in London, it’s amazing he wrote any books at all. Ok, so here’s what I would like someone at UC Davis to do. Have someone stand next to this Egghead and every time someone touches it for luck, have them give their name, and then have them come back with their mid-term results or final term grades, perhaps include their grades prior to touching the Egghead for a comparison, and then do some sort of statistical analysis to see whether touching the Egghead gave them any particular advantage over those who did not, or if it signaled a shift in their general academic progress, and maybe have them indicate if they had won any competitions or survived an accident, or if they had bad luck, like, well the opposite of those things. Then perhaps we will know the truth. In the meantime I am willing to hazard a guess that it does not give any magical gift of luck, and I might even have a sign posted next to it warning people that touching it will not give any guarantee of an upturn in your fortunes, and that UC Davis is not held responsible should your luck be not quite as good as you expected. In fact, just move the whole thing completely, put it somewhere else, on the roof maybe , somewhere nobody will be able to touch it. Then there could be a story behind it, “too many students were using ‘Luck’ to affect their grades that the UC Regents voted to have it moved to ensure academic integrity”.

Or perhaps tour guides could just not mention this obviously misleading legend at all, let it die a death, and perhaps use this opportunity to tell perhaps the most appropriate joke there is to tell when faced with a big egg in a book. What did the chicken say in the library? “Book-book-book-book…”

No? Alright, keep telling the silly ‘good luck’ story. Doesn’t make it true.

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7 thoughts on “the egg of good luck

  1. Laura (PA Pict) says:

    I was just reading that Edinburgh is trying to deal with a recent tradition – invented by a tour guide, it is alleged – that people should touch the nose of Greyfriar’s Bobby for good luck and it is wearing down Bobby’s poor wee nose. I did note when we were there last month that his nose had a shiny glow while the rest of him had a lovely patina. I wonder what compels people to create superstitions and traditions? Do they actually convince themselves they believe it even though they made it up? Is it a social experiment in trend-setting?

    • pete scully says:

      Well, this is it. I’ve considered starting a ‘tradition’ about putting hats on fire hydrants in Davis, saying people have been doing it for years, having fake photographic or even drawn evidence, writing a blog post about it, updating Davis wiki, maybe make up a reference to a competition to make the best top hat on a fire hydrant at the 1923 Picnic Day, and then mention it to tour guides, “oh you missed that? You should tell students at orientation.” Guarantee former students will start saying, “oh, um yeah, that is a tradition, yeah totally” so not to appear out of the loop, and then bingo. Hats will start appearing on hydrants all over Davis, every September, and it will all have been made up.
      I’m totally going to do this now.

  2. rebecca says:

    I saw your drawing and thought”this is how I spent many art history classes…in the darkness of a slide show about basilicas or ancient times….” no myth in the fact that dark lecture halls can make me sleepy….hahaha

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