Paul the Octopus is dead at age 2. The tarot world is in mourning. Just in case you are in the tarot world and you hadn’t heard, a moment of silence is in order, please.
Paul, not often known as San Pablo de Pulpo, was the spot-on predictor of this year’s World Cup Games. Presented with a favorite treat, mussels, contained in two boxes which represented the two teams playing each game, Paul correctly selected mussels from the winning team. He had an amazing 100% accuracy, something most tarot readers would advertise in print only if they were frauds instead of real tarot readers. Paul was our hero. OK, so he was a little slimy and you’re never sure how to look an octopus in the face, but when you get past these superficial characteristics, Paul was downright amazing.
Tragically (from our longer-lived perspective), octopi live only about two years, so he was basically at the peak of his career when we knew him during the World Cup predictions. It’s a short life for a creature of cleverness. Perhaps it is the brevity of life itself that spurs innovative techniques among the 8-legged brainy types. They work on a short deadline, literally.
I’ve had my “hot streaks,” sure. But I would never offer a 100% accuracy claim. Too much gets lost in translation. If it were like a movie, I would re-project it for people. If I knew the Lotto ticket numbers, would I be sitting here talking to you about an octopus?
Those hot streaks were fun though. Back in the 80’s when I first started working as a computer programmer, it was still about 2 or 3 men to every woman in the business, even fewer when it came to database analysis and design which was what I liked. Programs come, programs go, but data and information stay forever. That’s why your moms and dads tell you that you’ll be sorry for posting those really fun photos on the internet someday. Data is meaningful in context; change the context, you change the meaning. Funny at a party is perhaps not so funny in court. You get it.
Back in the day – scratch that. I hate that phrase, love you young ‘uns but that’s just one that gives me shivers. OK, back in Illinois when I was a “baby” programmer/DBA, I worked with a bunch of guys. These were not completely house-trained guys when it comes to being civilized but in context that was funny, in the way Animal House is a funny movie. Funny to watch but not funny to live with. I remember getting a ride to lunch with the group I hung out with at work, 15 or 20 of us invading some bar and grill or experimenting with Japanese food or getting tossed out of the Mongolian barbecue for being too efficient in filling our bowls with the goodies from the ingredients banquet table prior to griddling. I still wore skirts and hose and heels then, not yet annoyed with the discomforts of feminine fashions. At lunchtime, we piled into cars and took off for the restaurant du jour and one time I remember I caught a ride with Wulfers.
Wulfers was so correctly named, looking a bit more like Wolfman Jack and rather less like Alcide, slightly older and very married. He was a funny guy, a leading jokester from the spitwad section of gradeschool, a dominant buffoon who had long since succumbed to the superior wit of his wife. We felt sorry for her in a way because it was so obvious she had married a big kid, but we figured that he must amuse her as he did us. He was sort of handsome, sort of not and always had a joke to tell. Wulfie was still into sports and fitness and testosterone and stuff so I guess I should not have been surprised. But when I climbed into the back seat with the rest of the carload, I screamed. There on the backseat floor was a discarded pair of underwear, definitely Wulfie’s.
I screamed my bug scream. Hose and heels will make you do that when you encounter the unexpected BVD’s in the back of a guy’s car who is, after all, just one of the guys. Wulfie suffered his near-death experience of embarrassment, which was to hang his head on his steering wheel and try to explain, as he might to his long-suffering wife, exactly why a pair of underwear might lay discarded in plain sight for a “good” reason, something sports related apparently. Amid my shrieks of disgust and threats to phone his wife, I rode to lunch without letting my feet touch the floor of his car or the unmentionables, much to the snickering delight of the other passengers. I caught a ride back to work with someone else.
In this male-dominated world of constant apologies to women for transgressions that seemed like a good idea at the time, I grew a little more comfortable, although I reminded Wulfie that I wasn’t riding in his car again, clean or not. And it was during this time that I had a little predictive hot streak.
I’ve mentioned I like baseball. In my work environment there, all sports were hallowed. It was fall and football season. The World Series didn’t stretch into November like it does now. This was Football. We were firmly mired in the debate of Astroturf v. grass and being just halfway between St Louis and Chicago, the local rivalry was a constant topic of discussion, with a few outlanders defending Detroit and other exotic places. I started watching weekend NFL shows and after a couple of weeks into the season, wrote down the name of the Super Bowl loser (very specific) and pinned it to my fuzzy wall in my cube. And I was right. Three years in a row.
After the second year, Wulfie came to me and it was clear that his lifelong obsession with sports had included a monetary significance common in office pools and other far-off-track wagers. He begged. It was fun to be in demand. I personally did not make any money from the predictions. It was just fun to see them turn out. And then, in the fourth year, I lost interest in predicting football. Like Paul the Octopus, my season of specialty was over. And it’s never happened again. Don’t ask. I don’t do sports anymore. I read tarot. I still predict things, just not Super Bowl stuff.
Paul the O’s demise and all too brief a stay in the public attention prompts at least one question: If Paul was so good at the World Cup, why didn’t he predict his own death? Without knowing Paul personally and with few personal octopus encounters in my lifetime, I can’t be sure. But my sense is that like my brief stint with the Super Bowl loser predictions and like the Eight of Cups, the 8 of Water, the 8 of Intuition and connection to the collective unconsciousness, it was just Paul’s time to move on to something else. He specialized in this year’s World Cup and not in his own life and death events.
Those of you may wish him a jaunty, “Godspeed, Sucker!” But I feel I speak for the tarot community when I say thank you to Paul and his moment in time and hope that his next life, whether it is some eight-legged heaven or rebirth to a higher form, brings him and those around him joy, however brief.