You’re late for your date, stuck in the mother of all traffic jams, and forgot your iPhone. After driving around for what seems like forever, you finally find a phone booth and make your call, only to discover you had the wrong day.
It’s classic Mercury retrograde!
Named after the mythological messenger of the gods, Mercury rules communications, contracts, traffic flow, business negotiations, partnerships, and small electronics. Three times a year, he goes retrograde — an astronomical term used to describe the optical illusion of planets moving backward in the sky from one day to the next. His next retrograde starts this Sunday, April 18.
Mercury was known as a trickster, and when he’s retrograde, his “practical jokes” are anything but amusing. We get our wires crossed, don’t say what we think we’re saying, and don’t hear what the other person intended. These snafus can be irritating at best and at worst can break up relationships.
Here are a couple of true stories from my past, honest to goddess, no embellishing!
During Mercury retrograde in April 2004, I was living in a small village in the south of France. Road construction on the main thoroughfare left a narrow, one-way street as the only route in and out of the village center. If two cars ended up there at the same time, one had to back all the way out and let the other pass. Now, even in the best of times, country Frenchmen will not yield to each other, probably due to some malfunction of testosterone, of which they always had too much, in my opinion. It doesn’t take much of a leap to figure out what happened with Mercury retrograde in hot-headed Aries.
I watched from my second-floor window as two cars met on the street below. Instead of the usual stand-off, one driver got out of his car and started screaming obscenities (I understood most of it!). Without a word, the other guy got out of his car, locked it, and went straight to the nearest pub for a drink. The first guy got so angry that he grabbed a nearby dumpster and hurled it at the parked car, then proceeded to back out of town via a frighteningly narrow alleyway.
Here’s another car story, this one from Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius later in the same year, just after I arrived on Vashon:
The people whose house I was renting had left their car in a neighbor’s parking space while they were away. A friend of theirs e-mailed and asked to borrow the car, which they agreed to, and they contacted the neighbor with whom they’d left the car to let him know that their friend would be picking it up. Normally somewhat absent-minded, he totally blanked out during Mercury retrograde. When he discovered that the car was missing, he called the cops, who tracked it down. The friend had some fast explaining to do, but managed to work it out with the police. When she returned the car to the forgetful neighbor, they got in a big fight, and she ended up in tears.
Fortunately, that story ended happily with apologies all around — after Mercury returned direct, of course.
Situations like these can be avoided if you just remain aware of the pitfalls of Mercury retrograde. Several years ago, I devised some tips for “safe handling,” and I repeat them here for you:
• BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER FILES early and often. I can’t say this enough.
• Avoid all major purchases, especially computers or anything to do with communications and transportation. If you don’t end up returning them, they’ll give you headaches for the rest of their lifetime.
• If you can avoid it, don’t travel. If you can’t avoid it, then be obsessive about confirming all reservations. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, and keep a very low profile going through security. No joking with the security guards. I don’t have to tell you how that could end up.
• Signing contracts is a big no-no. Renegotiating existing contracts to get better terms is OK, but be sure to read and re-read the fine print.
• Speak clearly and watch your words. Although we can never tell how another person will take what we say, it’s more likely during Mercury retrograde that someone will take offense where none was intended. If you need something, state it simply and directly.
• Likewise, if someone says something insensitive, stop and think before taking offense. They probably didn’t mean it. And even if they did, this isn’t the time to get into it.
• If a misunderstanding occurs, don’t automatically blame the other person. You might think you were being perfectly clear, and you may be even more sure that the other person said what you think they did, but you wouldn’t believe how many times, in hindsight, I’ve found that both sides were technically “right” during Mercury retrograde. This is one of the biggest unexplained mysteries of the Mercury retrograde phenomenon.
• We all make mistakes, and they’re even more likely while Mercury is retrograde. My best advice is forgive and forget. As I’m so fond of saying, otherwise intelligent people say and do stupid things during Mercury retrograde.
• Laugh! When you think about some of these situations, they’re funnier than any Hollywood script.
Have a safe and happy Mercury retrograde!