After I read this as a kid I became a Stephen King fan. I began
reading a lot of his works. I remained a fan until my junior or
senior year in high school. "It" was the book that sealed,
in my eyes, his downfall. Despite several attempts, I couldn't
bring myself to finish that book.
There are plenty of people who won't walk under ladders or open an umbrella in the house. There are basketball players who cross themselves before taking foul shots and baseball players who change their socks when they're in a slump. I think it's the rational mind playing bad stereo accompaniment with the irrational subconscious. Forced to define 'irrational subconscious,' I would say that it is a small padded room inside all of us, where the only furnishing is a small card table, and the only thing on the card table is a revolver loaded with flexible bullets.
When you change course on the sidewalk to avoid the ladder or step out of your apartment into the rain with your furled umbrella, part of your integrated self peels off and steps into that room and picks the gun off of that table. You may be aware of two conflicting thoughts: Walking under a ladder is harmless, and Not walking under a ladder is also harmless. But as soon as the ladder is behind you--or as soon as your umbrella is open--you're back together again."
The writer said, "That's very interesting. Take it a step further for me, if you don't mind. When does that irrational part actually stop fooling with the gun and put it up to its temple?"
The editor said, "When the person in question starts writing letters to the op-ed page of the paper demanding that all the ladders be taken down because walking under them is dangerous."
There was a laugh.
Having taken it that far, I suppose we ought to finish. The irrational self has actually fired the flexible bullet into the brain when the person begins tearing around town, knocking ladders over and maybe injuring t he people that were working on them. It is not certifiable behavior to walk around ladders rather than under them. It is not certifiable behavior to write letters to the paper saying that New York City went broke because of all the people call ously walking under workmen's ladders. But it is certifiable to start knocking over ladders.