I AM KEEPING an eye on my colleague signer. He is an editor at The Washington Post and at the monent he is sitting at a desk writing out the weekly schedule for reporters. This is not very interesting work and normally, even in the worst of times, I can find better things to do than watch Signer. Thing is, though, he is a Pisces and today, it said on the radio coming ot work, Pisces will make money and love. This is why I am watching Signer.
Signer is bearded and a touch bald. [I am being kind here.] He is a tough journalist of the old school. He is very forceful. You could not tell by looking at him that he will find the time this day to make love. This I know takes time. I know nothing about making money.
I heard about what is in store for all Pisces on the radio in the cab. It was tuned to some station and Sydney Omarr came on. He starting reading the horoscopes of all the signs and I kept waiting for mine. When he got to it, the cab went into the tunnel under Dupont Circle so I don't know what was supposed to happen to me. When we got out of the tunne, Omarr had gotten to Pisces. " . . . . What started mildly, ends hated, and Pisces will make money and love today."
"Oooh-ha," said the cab driver.
"Not at all bad," I said. "You a Pisces?"
"Not me," the driver said.
When I got to the office I asked around for a Pisces. One of the secretaries had a computer printout of all employe birthdays, and she gave me a choice of three Pisces. The only one in the office at the time was Signer. I went up to him.
"Sydney Omarr says you're going to make money and love today. I don't care about love but I want to see how you make money. i'm going to keep my eye on you."
And I did. From time to time, I walked up to the front of the room where Signer was sitting and looked over his shoulder at what he was doing. Much of the time, he tried to smile and be polite, but after a while he reverted to his harsh city editor ways and gave the brushoff. This was fine with me. I wanted him to act naturally. This was going to be my test of astrology.
The thing about astrology, of course, is that it has become something of a universal, secular religion. People talk about it at parties with the assumption that you either believe to the extent that you have had your chart done or you believe enough to check the newspapers every day. They do not expect, for instance, that you will rebuff them, denounce them as fools and say, "Buzz off," when they ask you for your sign. I, for one, like to say Scorpio. It is not my sign, but it is a dandy word. It sounds terrific, like a fine Italian sports car -- "I drive a Scorpio." Actually, I am an Aquarius. Me, Ronald Reagan and Louis Nizer have the same birthdate. You may want to read that sentence again.
Okay, back to astrology. Most of the time it's fun and most of the time it's harmless. Some people are separated from their money by having their chart prepared and some people probably devote too much attention to it, but by and large it harms no one. In fact, it sort of proclaims the individuality of the person. No one, after all, shares your time and place of birth. This makes you unique and in this world you have to use what you have to stop from getting lost in the crowd.
But there is something here that rankles also, and that is the assumption in astrology that things are set -- in the stars or not in the stars -- and there's nothing you can do about it. This is why some people respond almost violenty when asked their sign. There is an assumption in the question that they are going to be told something about themselves that has been ordered, preordained, controlled by the stars -- not developed by that person himself. The thing about astrology is that it tends to minimize your own control over events. Things happen or don't happen and either way it's not something you can do anything about. In this sense, astrology is like compulsive gambling -- it trusts too much in luck or fortune, and this may be why, to an extent, astrology is a secular religion of the forlorn -- it exonerates them from any responsibility for their own fate.
Maybe this is something that fits the times, something that strikes a chord. Maybe we all feel that we have lost control over events, over our own lives. I don't know. All I know is that a man gets paid money to say on the radio that Signer of the city desk is going to make money and love on a certain day. Money is one thing. Love is something else. You have to be in the mood, and so the next day I called Signer. "What happened?"
"I didn't make any money," he said.
"And I was tired when I got home last night." Maybe there's a sign for headaches.