2008 Election Inspired National Dialogue On Race Discussions about race have become more prominent during this presidential election — in the media and at the dinner table. Listeners and guests weigh in on how race had played out on the national stage during this election.
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2008 Election Inspired National Dialogue On Race

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2008 Election Inspired National Dialogue On Race

2008 Election Inspired National Dialogue On Race

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NEAL CONAN, Host:

This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Ball players do it. Hall of fame hitter Wade Boggs ate chicken every game day. Politicians, too - you can bet Barack Obama will shoot hoops on Election Day - and radio hosts - tonight when I get on an airplane I will knock twice on the fuselage and then twice more when I get off. As we'll hear in a few minutes, almost everybody has a superstition of one so or another because our brains are wired that way. So whether it's black cats, wishing wells, or a lucky sweater, what is your superstition, and why do you think that way?

Our phone number 800-989-8255, email us talk@npr.org and you can join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. Later on the program we conclude our series of final arguments. Today Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger makes the case for John McCain on foreign policy. But first, superstition and magical thinking. Dana Milbank is national political columnist for the Washington Post among many other oddities wrote a piece about politician's superstitions. He joins us from the studio at the newspaper. Dana, always good to have you on the program.

DANA T: Good to join you, Neal.

CONAN: And John McCain has a lucky friend?

MILBANK: Oh, he has many. In fact, I'm worried he may have shed some of them, which may explain his drop in the polls. But he has a lucky compass, a lucky feather, a lucky penny, a lucky rock, a lucky pen, some lucky shoes, and there's even a lucky lizard.

CONAN: A lucky lizard?

MILBANK: Yes. I should say at least there had been. He's not as forth coming about his superstitions this time around, but from his last presidential bid when things were really tense, one of the members of his traveling entourage would bring out what he called the Spring Hill Lizard. It didn't actually it just not really a lizard, it involves wiggling your pinkie. And it was believed that this lizard allowed Texas A&M to beat Nebraska in a very crucial football game and almost got John McCain the nomination back in 2000.

CONAN: And I thought that there was one friend of his who he liked to have with him every Election Day.

MILBANK: Well, he's...

CONAN: I've read about that. Anyway, this is something that politicians are seemed to be susceptible to but you also wrote in your piece that to some degree it may also be a fighter pilot thing.

MILBANK: That certainly what McCain thinks that when he was flying he would have his navigator clean his visor every time before he took off. I guess that's like you tapping twice...

CONAN: On the airplane.

MILBANK: On the fuselage. Perhaps, you're a fighter pilot as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: No. In another life maybe.

MILBANK: But, this seems to have followed him into elected office and you know it's - they - back in his last campaign they even have a lucky food, they would make sure everybody ate barbecue on an Election Day. They made sure the candidate watched a movie, that's a little different from Obama's basketball but...

CONAN: Mm hmm.

MILBANK: But, there was a crisis at one point when he fell asleep and they were worried he wouldn't get the movie in, but they were able to get the candidate awake, and have the movie actually screened so crisis was averted.

CONAN: Oh, I was wondering if that turnout to be South Carolina and...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: People really do believe these things, and John McCain hardly the only politician to think that way.

MILBANK: No. I think it's quite common among the political figures, and Obama has boasted about being superstitious in campaign rallies, and you played the clip about the basketball...

CONAN: Mm hmm.

MILBANK: The amazing thing is that they're so open about it and this - what they're basically celebrating are pagan rituals in this ostensibly Judeo-Christian nation, you now. Forget about calling each other socialist their - they should be accusing each other of being pagans.

CONAN: Now, campaign staffs - I assume they're happy to indulge these little quirks of personality.

MILBANK: Well, of course and they all bring out their own, and you know, there was the McCain aide who would wear his lucky socks with the palm trees on it. I know during this campaign, one of Hillary Clinton's advisers had to wear his rather awful lucky sweater on every Election Day regardless of what happened. Others have been known to wear beards until there was - as long as the victory streak kept on going. And quite famously James Carville would not change his underwear for an extended period of time in the 1992 Clinton campaign.

CONAN: They would - the lucky sweater you would wear it even though in some, you know, in some of those primaries they lost.

MILBANK: Well, you know, superstitions are hard to go by. I mean, if perhaps if you renounce the sacred totem or the sacred object the gods may rise up and punish you for that. So you may want to go with the it, you know. I mean, I assume even if you have a bumpy flight you're still going to tap the fuselage that way...

CONAN: Absolutely. What is it, the charm that keeps the plane in the air. That's what keeps it safe. And I've only got one so I have to take it with me when I go...

MILBANK: Precisely.

CONAN: And then somebody else has to protect the next bunch of clowns that to get on that plane. The idea of Election Day itself - difficult day for politicians after being such frenetic campaigning up until midnight of election eve. Then all of a sudden they got basically nothing to do but the photo op at the polling booth and then sit around all day and wait.

MILBANK: Yes. It's - they say it's the worst time because there's absolutely positively nothing you can do. So, President Bush always made it a habit of having the workout. That's why you'll get John McCain's movie viewing or Obama's basketball play. Now that is not just a superstition that's actually has the legitimate purpose of blowing off steam because these guys have been running, you know, 18 hours a day now for a couple of years.

CONAN: I have to ask you, Dana Milbank, do you have a superstition?

MILBANK: Well, I'd like to say I've been able to get over the James Carville underwear superstition...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Good.

MILBANK: With lots of counseling and medication I think it's going just fine.

CONAN: That's why we've don't broadcast in aromarama.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MILBANK: There you have it. No, I've been able to move past these superstitions.

CONAN: Dana Milbank, thanks so very much as always for your time today.

MILBANK: My pleasure.

CONAN: Dana Milbank, national political columnist of the Washington Post. He joined us today from his studio at the paper. His most recent book is "Homopoliticus: The Strange and Scary Tribes" that run our government. Let's see we get a caller on the line. This is Freddie, Freddie(ph) is with us from Cleveland.

FREDDIE: How are you today, Neal?

CONAN: I'm well, yourself. What's your superstition?

FREDDIE: I'm a woodworker. I design and build custom furniture. As I lay in bed the night before I go to work, I inevitably think about all the dangerous cuts I have to make the next day. And if I picture myself hurting myself, I rap my knuckles on my headboard, which is obviously made of wood, to the point my wife gets pretty annoyed and tells me to stop and go to sleep. But the only times I've ever hurt myself I didn't knock on wood the night before and so far it hasn't failed me.

CONAN: It sounds like it's more than just one you know, sort of satisfying thump. You rap on it repeatedly?

FREDDIE: Well, I have a pretty good imagination. I tend to elaborate a little bit on the things that I have to do the next day.

CONAN: So you're playing out - drum place piece from Wipe Out on the headboard is what you're trying to tell us.

FREDDIE: My wife gets pretty annoyed. But so far, it's worked pretty - it's worked pretty well. I know knocking on wood is pretty common, I wondered if anybody knows where the knock-on-wood theory came from.

CONAN: It was a song by Eddie Floyd. But anyway, Freddie, thanks very much for the phone call. Appreciate it.

FREDDIE: Yeah.

CONAN: Joining us now is Matthew Hudson, news editor at Psychology Today who's written an article titled "Magical Thinking." Even hardcore skeptics can't help but find sympathy in the fabric of the universe and occasionally try to pull it." He's news editor at Psychology Today with us from our bureau in New York. Nice to have you on the program today.

MATTHEW HUTSON: Thank you. Good to be here.

CONAN: And the tapping on the headboard that would come under the category - I think you'd put it of a ritual, wouldn't you?

HUTSON: Yes. Humans are very good at spotting patterns. It's how we learn. We naturally see correlations between things, sometimes when they're not there. So if you do something if you perform an act, knock on wood, carry something in your pocket and then something good happens, you just naturally make the correlation and assume that there's causation there. And you tend to continue doing whatever the ritual is in the future.

CONAN: Because our brain is wired when we see something even though there's no link between cause and effect, we make a link.

HUTSON: Yes. And it's even been shown in pigeons. There's a classic study showing so-called superstition in pigeons where they're in a box and they're fed food and they can't predict when the food is coming and they associate whatever they're doing, whether it's bop in their head or turning in a circle with receiving the food, and they think that whatever they were just doing, made the food come and they just build up this elaborate repertoire of this odd behaviors hoping for more food.

CONAN: That was B.F. Skinner.

HUTSON: Yeah.

CONAN: And...

HUTSON: And so you can understand why McCain would hold, you know a dozen different good luck charms in his pocket, because he's just sort of associated each one with success.

CONAN: And why our caller Freddie would say, when I tap on the bedstead, I don't cut myself the next morning.

HUTSON: Exactly.

CONAN: Right. Let's see if we can get another caller on the line and let's go now to Samantha. Samantha with us from Dekalb, Illinois.

SAMANTHA: Hi there.

CONAN: Hi there.

SAMANTHA: My superstition is that words have power so you can jinx yourself. For instance, you know, oh I hope we're not late today is precisely when you run into construction.

CONAN: Yeah. This ball game seems to be moving right along, guaranteed that there's going to be four pitching changes that inning.

SAMANTHA: Exactly.

CONAN: The jinx, Matthew Hutson. Where does that come from?

HUTSON: Well, the jinx is a form of tempting fate. So one explanation of it is if things are going well and you comment on it then it's a form of overconfidentce, and fate is going to strike you down as punishment because we tend to believe in karma. Another explanation is that humans are just very bad at understanding statistics correctly, and so after a string of successes the string is bound to end at some point, and if you comment on the success and then you fail or something bad happens, you again see a causation there, and you assume that commenting on success causes failure when in fact failure is bound to happen at some point.

CONAN: And you write fundamentally humans are just very uncomfortable with the idea of random actions.

HUTSON: Yes. Being - the idea of being at the mercy of a universe that doesn't care about us, that's unpredictable. It's just very - it causes anxiety, it causes stress and the way that we succeed, the way that we achieve things is by assuming that we can control things even when we can't. And going out there and trying to manipulate, take control of our lives, take control of the world, and affiliate things around us.

CONAN: And Samantha, we'll ask you, please not to say the radio program is going awfully well today.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAMANTHA: All right.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. By the way, Matthew Hutson, that think about knocking on the fuselage of the airplane, any possibility anybody else in the world does that?

HUTSON: Well, funny you should mention that. That was in my article. I started doing that when I was a kid. Just sort of touching the outside of the plane with both hands as I stepped on it and so now, I still do it whenever I get on an airplane. And I know that it's BS. I know that it doesn't really do anything but...

CONAN: May this house be safe from tigers is under the same category of prayer.

HUTSON: Yeah.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Matthew Hutson. Stay with us, we're going to take more calls about superstition and when we come back after a short break, 800-989-8255. Email us talk@npr.org. Here's another one, turning that radio dial can only bring you bad luck. I'm Neal Conan, stay with us. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. For Winston Churchill it was black cats. He thought they brought him good luck. Sports, too, are full of superstition. Kirk Randall who used to pitch for The Cubs and The Mets brushed his teeth between innings and always jumped over the foul lines. Today, we want to know what's your superstition. Our phone number, 800-989-8255. Email us talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation. Our guest is Matthew Hutson. His article, "Magical Thinking - Even hard-core skeptics can't help but find sympathy in the fabric of the universe - and occasionally try to pull it," ran in Psychology Today and let's see if we can get another caller on the line. And this is Michael, Michael with us from Portland in Oregon.

MICHAEL: Yeah, hi there. I just wanted to comment. I've been a surgical nurse for over 20 years, and I've never known a group of scientifically evidence based people like surgeons who succumb to superstitions as much as they do. For instance, lucky shoes. I've known surgeons who would not consider doing a surgery without these shoes. It's been held together by duct tape for 20 years, and I just think that's a very interesting dichotomy between science and superstition.

CONAN: Do any of them have lucky scalpels?

MICHAEL: No. Scalpels, get used once and then go away.

CONAN: Oh good. I was going to ask you about that. And Matthew Hutson, the degree of education seems to have nothing to do with it.

HUTSON: Yeah. There have been studies showing that people who consider themselves very rational thinkers are no less susceptible to magical thinking than other people. And there is in fact kind of a logic to a lot of these rituals or magical ways of thinking. There are a few different factors that play into it. People tend to think magically more when they're stressed out or in unpredictable situations like an election or a baseball game.

Also when the stakes are very high, and when the costs of performing the ritual are very low. So let's say a surgeon, a surgeon is, you know a lot of factors are out of the surgeon's control, and the stakes are very high. It's a life and death situation and let's say her ritual's just to tap her foot a couple times before going into the operating room, you know, that's - it doesn't cost very much and - but it may - but the pay-off is that it creates peace of mind.

MICHAEL: And I think that it creates peace of mind for surgeon. I think that's more power to them.

CONAN: Michael, thanks for the call and continued good luck to you.

MICHAEL: Thank you so much.

CONAN: Bye-bye. This by the way from Susan by email. I've been an emergency mental health worker who went to the E.R. at times to see patients there, no matter how quiet it is in there, you never say it's quiet. The medical staff will yell because it might break the peace. Let's see if we can get another caller on the line and this Larry. Larry with us from Sheridan, Oregon.

LARRY: Yeah, Neal. Thanks for taking my call. I was in a horrible airline accident some time ago and after the investigation with the NTSB, they couldn't come up with any cause of the accident except they did note that there were two distinct knuckle marks right...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHER)

LARRY: The entry for...

CONAN: There was the plane I'd been on before, yes indeed. Yes, so it's - Larry, I'm glad. You were very lucky to survive.

LARRY: Yeah. Yeah. All good.

CONAN: OK. Thanks for...

LARRY: Have a wonderful day.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call, Larry.

LARRY: Yeah, bye.

CONAN: Let's see if we can go now to Rob. Rob with us from South Bend in Indiana.

ROB: Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

ROB: Hey, I was just thinking, you know I come from a theater background and obviously I've been around a lot of superstitions and that, you know they mention the name of a certain Shakespearean play but I've never seen a superstition go as far as a friend of mine who is a hard core Red Sox fan. He's recently drawn me in and it's gone as far as, you know, there was a lucky jersey sort of thing that didn't really pan out this year, because he didn't go through with it. But it actually - we were actually watching the ALCS this year and we started break - drinking one particular brand of beer and he decided it was that - that was it.

That was the key. So we started drinking it and then once the night of the last game, it was my turn to buy and I, being a skeptic went out and purposely bought a different brand which caused him to get into an uproar and he actually - we live in a dry county in Indiana, or dryer state actually, so he actually drove to Michigan to get this particular brand of beer.

CONAN: And it did not go a lot of good.

ROB: It did not. It did not pan out. So I'm not sure how much he's holding on - he's still. I think he's still pretty hard core about it.

CONAN: There are a lot of baseball fans and sometimes I confess I do this, too. If I'm watching, it affects the game.

HUTSON: Yes, that is a very common thing. That's the idea that of mind over matter. People think that thinking about a game can influence it. So if you picture the success of someone watching - of someone playing, you know, batter or free throw shooter, people tend to - if you picture the person's success and then the person succeeds, you tend to draw a connection and feel responsible for it and this has been shown in laboratory studies with Ivy League students. So it's not - it's not like...

CONAN: I shouldn't feel like a total idiot.

HUTSON: Exactly.

CONAN: OK. Rob also mentioned theater superstitions, we got this from Bill in Indiana. A light is always left on when the house is empty. The ghost light is usually at center stage. Real flowers must never be used on stage as part of the show. It's unlucky for an actress to receive a bouquet of flowers before the performance. It is unlucky for an actor to be actually knitting on stage or on the side of the stage. If a drop curtain is looped, it's a sign of bad luck. Peering from inside the curtain at the audience is also considered bad. Never whistle in a theater especially back stage, and of course, you always tell somebody to go out there and break a leg.

HUTSON: It's funny I was talking to Teller, the silent half of Penn and Teller recently and he's a hard core skeptic and he directed a production of - or co-produced a production or Macbeth recently.

CONAN: Mm hmm.

HUTSON: And none of the actors...

CONAN: It was the Scottish play I guess.

HUTSON: Yeah and none of the actors wanted to say the name of the play, because they felt it was bad luck. So he would say it as much as possible, and he forced everyone else to say it.

CONAN: And it closed after one night.

HUTSON: No, actually I saw it. and it was a great show.

CONAN: Rob, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.

ROB: The counteract saying the name of that show. I did a lot of community theater and a way to do it was, if someone said the name of it, you have to go outside and walk in a circle and scream every profanity you could think of for a minute in total. And so we had a number of very old women who were very unhappy before the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHER)

CONAN: Rob, thanks very much for the call.

ROB: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can talk next to - this is Roberto. Roberto with us also from Portland.

ROBERTO: Hi. How are you, Neal? Thanks for having me on the show.

CONAN: I'm very well. Thank you.

ROBERTO: I was going to comment on - and it was an earlier comment about how these are pagan rituals and coming from a couple of Christian presidential candidate. It's interesting to see that they are part of these pagan rituals, I wonder - I was wondering a little bit more about that overlap between religion and superstition. I was raised Catholic, and I'm what you would call a Catholic, but I'm somewhat of a skeptical Catholic. Not somebody who got ever been too much into the whole kind of miraculous aspects of religion. Yet, religiously, no matter what - every time they go on a flight, I do the sign of the cross before going in, and I think it's more of a superstitious reaction than it is a religious reaction. I don't necessarily think that I'm doing it out of a religious motivation, but I do think it's a very superstitious act but tightly tied to a Christian or a Catholic tradition.

CONAN: Matthew Hutson, what do you think?

HUTSON: I think there's a back and forth there between superstition and religion. Religion is - a lot of organized religion is sort of an elaboration upon the superstitious ways of thinking that we have. They are culturally ingrained. We learn them, but then they can also feedback to our own personal rituals. You might pick up something like the sign of the cross from culture and then integrate that into your own behaviors.

CONAN: Roberto, good luck on your next flight. I hope your next to me. We can double up.

ROBERTO: Maybe I'll start knocking instead of doing the sign of a cross.

CONAN: OK. Maybe...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROBERTO: Take care.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Yeah, that's funny. Now, let's see Andrew. Andrew with us from Cleveland.

ANDREW: Yes. Hi, Neal. I actually have one - depending on how much I listen and whatever acquire as far as knowledge of your own phantom you might find interesting. When I going in to certain and social settings or whenever I start my first day with a new car, I always wear a certain kind of ring, a Green Lantern ring.

CONAN: You've never had a yellow car, then?

ANDREW: No, no, a red one that got me a lot of tickets, but not a yellow.

CONAN: No. Of course, the Green Lantern's ring has no power over the color yellow.

ANDREW: Right, right. You know, thank God I don't drive a school bus.

CONAN: Well - or waiting for the light to change if you know you couldn't get the yellow light to...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ANDREW: And also I wanted to comment. I don't know if your guests ever heard of this but there's a funky little board game that was made back in the 60's. I believe a Milton Bradley called Superstition. And that's actually where I got my first knowledge o what superstitions were, you know, the don't break the mirror, don't walk under the ladders, you know, stay away from black cats that kind of thing, because they were all components of this rather elaborate a little board game.

CONAN: Andrew, thanks very much for the call, appreciate it.

ANDREW: Yeah.

CONAN: Have you heard of the game superstition, Mathew?

HUTSON: I have not played that game but of course there Ouija boards.

CONAN: Hmm.

HUTSON: I remember at one time in secondary school when people throughout the day started walking out to me and handing me a dollar bills. And eventually I figured out what had happened at the night before they had been playing with the game and the spirit told them that they should - they would receive good luck if they each gave me $2,000 or something like that.

CONAN: Aha.

HUTSON: And they bargained with the spirit who was apparently one of my ancestors. Bargained her down to like a dollar or two per person.

CONAN: And the spirit is easily swayed, yeah.

HUTSON: Yeah, kind of a push over.

CONAN: I was fascinated by section of your article that begins after you sight Arthur C. Clarke's famous assertion - any sufficiently advanced technology is in distinguishable from magic.

HUTSON: Right, right. And in a lot of ways - well, yeah there's a lot of technologies adhere to types of magic that we'd read about like action at a distance. You know, we have remote controls now or gravity works at a distance. And it - what I found interesting in doing my research is that it seems to me that a lot of these sort of some people say pagan ways of thinking, these ancient thought processes might start making even more sense in the future, in virtual worlds and things like this where you won't have magicians and gods organizing the universe, but you'll have engineers and programmers who can put all these secret laws in a back doors into the software into whatever technology that you're using. And if you can discover these secrets that are - you know they are human implemented so they sort adhere to the users way of thinking. It's like living in a really magical world.

CONAN: The way Mathew Hutson stated it in his article in Psychology Today is that computers hacks as solutions are tricks that side step normal operating procedures are a form a coding magic or as a geek might say, magic is a form hacking nature. We're talking with Mathew Hutson, the news editor at Psychology Today about superstition. If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255. Email us talk@npr.org.

Jennifer did from Rehoboth in Delaware. "I consider myself an intelligent person, but if someone spills salt I am compelled to throw some over my shoulder. It happened the other when four of us were out to dinner. After the salt shaker was knocked over, I couldn't think of anything else. I waited a minute or so trying to resist but then pinched a bit and threw it over my shoulder. The woman next to me, a little further from the salt, leaned in thanked me. She looked as relieved as I felt it's funny now nut it was serious at that time." You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. And let's see if we get another caller on the line. This is John, John with us from Iowa City in Iowa.

JOHN: Yes. It just seems to me like with the year now being 2008, and I apologize for tuning in a little bit late here, that this discussion seems to beckon. What I think is known was in brain science more and more that all of these type of behaviors are tied to obsession and compulsion.

CONAN: OCD.

JOHN: Actually - yes. Well, potentially to the point of the D end of it, yeah.

CONAN: OK. Is this connected in any way with obsessive compulsive behavior, Mathew?

HUTSON: It definitely is, OCD could be considered an extreme form of magical thinking. Thought action fusion, the idea of that if you think something - if you think a bad thought then you're specially responsible if the thing happens. There is actually a case study recently where a boy with OCD felt responsible for the 9/11 attacks because he hadn't performed some small thing that he does.

CONAN: Hmm.

JOHN: Is it possible that all these superstitious and or religious constructs are only human constructs in terms of the ego, egoism, super ego, not sound overly Freudean.

CONAN: Get - paging Dr. Freud there.

JOHN: Yeah

HUTSON: Well a lot of them are only seen in humans, but then a lot of them are also seen in other animals. For instance, the superstition in the pigeon.

CONAN: Hmm. All right, John. Thanks very much

JOHN: Again, there perhaps just brain science can describe it as a phenomenon unto itself that doesn't have to do with the outside, outside of the self.

CONAN: OK. John thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.

JOHN: Thank you. Take care.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if - we're going to go to Denise, Denise is with us from Heber City in Utah.

DENISE: Hi

CONAN: Hi

DENISE: Hey, I don't remember where I heard this. I suspect that I remember it came from Gilda Radner. So I've been doing it for years and years, and I got my husband to do it. But on the first of every month, we say the words 'bunny, bunny' and that's suppose to give us a good luck for the entire month.

CONAN: There - have presumably been months in your life where good luck did not rain every day?

DENISE: Well, sure. But I've actually been doing it for probably a good ten years then I - you know I'd still do it. And then if my husband isn't home on the first, I always make sure to call him and I'll just say did you say it? And he'll go, oh yeah, I said it.

CONAN: OK, bunny, bunny. All right

DENISE: Yes.

CONAN: Very low risk with that one as mentioned earlier. Denise, thanks very much for the call. And let's see if we can go to Dennis, Dennis with us in Sacramento in California.

DENNIS: Hey thanks for taking my call. I'd appreciate it. I was a ramp agent in Alexia, New Jersey, at a small airport. And the whole touching the plane thing, at that airport we used to board from outside where they go upstairs. A lady, she exited the line and she went over and touched the fuselage with both her hands and she shook her head back and forth. She goes nope not getting on. So she steps out of line and she freaks out about like four or five people. So we pull them out of line and everyone gets on the plane (unintelligible) away, gets the runway, comes back on a mechanical.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: You're kidding?

DENNIS: Everybody stop and half of people won't get back on the plane again.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONAN: On the other hand, I guess flying safely you'll do anything. It's funny we got this from Eric in Charlottesville, Virginia. I was stunned here your guest renditon of knocking on the fuselage of the plane getting on and off. This is my biggest superstition. I always just touch the outside even talk to it a little when I get on. So maybe - I don't know, maybe this is a big deal. Dennis, thanks very much for the call.

DENNIS: Have a great day.

CONAN: Appreciate it. And Mathew Hutson, your superstition other than touching planes?

HUDSON: Well, I knock on wood after saying something that might, might tempt fate Of course I make eye contact while clinking glasses to avoid seven years of bad sex. There are few other little things, none of them are too harmful.

CONAN: Congratulations. Thanks very much and good luck to you.

HUTSON: Thanks.

CONAN: Mathew Hutson is the news editor at Psychology Today. His piece was called "Magical Thinking - Even hard-core skeptics can't help but find sympathy in the fabric of the universe - and occasionally try to pull it." Coming up next, we wrap up our series of final arguments for the two major party presidential candidates. Today, foreign policy. Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger for John McCain. It's the Talk of the Nation from NPR News.

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