Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Superstition is the way

Post by Brian O'Neill on May 5, 2012 at 11:28 am with No Comments »
May 5, 2012 11:42 am

“I see the bad moon arising. I see trouble on the way.” -Creedence Clearwater Revival

Every now and then I will read a scientific explanation that doesn’t blow past my head at warp speed. I may not know what warp speed is, but I must have been paying some attention during Astronomy 101. I actually have a basic understanding of the phenomenon, known as the Supermoon, that will be playing out in tonight’s sky.

Full moon over Tacoma/ courtesy of

It’s actually pretty simple. Because the lunar orbit is an ellipse rather than a circle, its distance from any one vantage changes over time. In this case, the full moon is is looming its largest Saturday evening, hence the Supermoon.

I must not have been paying attention during Psych 101, however. I was taken aback when an AP article (Trib 5/5) on the Supermoon passed along this psychological factoid, “don’t expect any ‘must-have-been-a-full-moon’ spike in crime or crazy behavior. That’s just folklore.”

Seriously? I would welcome the writer, one Malcolm Ritter, to experience a “normal” Saturday night on patrol, on a fire or medic rig or in the emergency room, and compare it to the inexplicable chaos on the streets and filling the wards during a full moon.

Before you ask me to back up these claims, forget it. Some things – God, country, weird job-related superstitions – you have to take on faith. Anecdotal faith, at least.

Take, for example, the Q-word. Use of the phrase, “It’s quiet tonight” (or any other Q-related derivation) is the classic rookie blunder. As any first responder can tell you, uttering the Q-word is tantamount to sticking one’s tongue out at the fates. I can not count the number of times a cop dropped the Q-word, either in idle conversation or reckless chatter over the police frequency, only to be followed by an instantaneous backlash in the form of a priority incident.

These superstitions may not make a lot of sense. On a logical and objective scale, the idea that astronomical trajectories or particular words affect our behavior sounds ridiculous. Even Stevie Wonder tried to tell us that, “Superstition ain’t the way.”

Instead of responding, let me rephrase the question: Can our belief in something alter the way we live our life?

The simple answer is yes.

The belief that these cosmic factors could affect a person’s behavior is the reason that the cops and firefighters, the nurses and docs in the E.R., will be on edge tonight as the Supermoon rises in the night sky. It will probably be so busy no one will even have an opportunity to drop the Q-word.

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