Small Wonders: Retrograde, and then a return

January 06, 2012|By Patrick Caneday

I'm back.

And I can now let you in on why I needed a break.

Mercury was in retrograde.

I knew you'd understand.

A planet is in retrograde when its movement across our sky appears to be going in reverse of its normal path. This apparent shift in trajectory can be disconcerting and troubling to the observer. It happens with Mercury three to four times each year. And it happens with earthlings at least that many times each week.


I leave it to street corner astronomers to explain the phenomenon, but astrologers (and yes, I did just this week learn the difference between the two) will tell you of myriad quandaries that manifest during this cosmic confluence.

According to those in the know, while Mercury — “the universal trickster” — is in retrograde, you can expect electrical equipment and machinery to self-destruct, software crashes, traffic jams, lost emails, your 8-track player to chew up your favorite Mac Davis album, missed appointments and flights, and bad haircuts.

It is the star-watcher’s answer to Murphy's Law.

In the span of six weeks, the following otherwise dependable devices around my home decided it was time to collectively occupy Malfunction Town: home computer, laptop, washing machine, dryer, refrigerator, toaster, garage door, the rear passenger window of my wife's Saturn, the little squirty things on the hood of my truck that wash the windshield. And my iPhone has been curiously slow.

Not to mention, my trusty barbershop in Toluca Lake went out of business.

I was at Sear's shopping for appliances so often, the sales associates fought over whose house I would go to for Christmas.

While the actual dates of this latest retrograde phase were only from Nov. 24 to Dec. 14, there is said to be a period of transition before and after in which Mercury's antics may still occur. So I'm using that to cover pretty much all of 2010 and '11 and at least the first few months of '12.

Now, I normally don't buy into this zodiac stuff. But you have to admit, this is all too strange and fluky. It also helps to explain the less-than-stellar box-office performance of “The Muppets,” Kim Kardashian's surprising divorce, Rick Perry and Herman Cain's memory lapses, Newt's rise in the polls and the inability of Congress to reach consensus on a balanced budget, the payroll tax or the color of the sky.

Coincidence? I think not.

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