The most unusual “rule” I’ve ever heard came from a lady in Fairbanks, Alaska.
I’d asked for examples of rules that don’t exist, and this woman stood up and matter-of-factly declared, “How about the one where you can’t bring bananas with you on the fishing boat!”
Her delivery was as if she’d just told us that glaciers are cold and made of ice.
The blank, quizzical looks of the other attendees gave way to a roomful of raucous laughter.
Unfazed, she assured us, “But I tried it and it’s totally fine.”
Now, hearing about this crippling restriction for the first time and then learning that there was no reason to panic—all in the span of sixteen seconds—was as dizzying as you might imagine.
What fascinated me was that in her mind, everyone was familiar with this rule. Which is kind of how the rules work sometimes.
We all come from different backgrounds and cultures with different customs. Everyone grows up with families that do things a certain way. Often, the first time we get a clue that maybe not everyone does it the same is when we’re introduced to the family of someone we’re in a serious relationship with. I remember it being strange that Kim’s family always ate their breakfast sausage with mustard. Meanwhile, they thought it was strange that I thought it was strange. Now I think it’s strange when a waitress thinks I’m strange for asking for mustard when I order breakfast sausage.
Sometimes these rules can trick us into thinking they’re universal, eternal, and ironclad, when in fact, the way you’ve always done it isn’t necessarily the way everyone else has always done it.
Turns out this banana issue is a real thing among sport fisherman, who are notoriously superstitious and consider them bad luck. According to snopes.com, which classifies it as a legend, there is no clear reason why this rule came to be (although there are multiple possible—and hilarious—explanations). Some in the business ban anything banana-related, including banana muffins, Banana Boat sunscreen, or Fruit of the Loom underwear, even though, curiously, the clothier’s logo doesn’t even contain a banana in it.
The good news is that this brave woman from Fairbanks confirmed that this rule is completely bogus, which means we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
And focus our attention on not whistling on board, leaving port on Sunday, and getting virgins to pee on our nets for good luck.