As I write this, a broom stands upright in the middle of my kitchen floor. It’s been there since June 20. And though it’s a bother to walk around it, at least it gives me a good excuse not to mop.
I went through this same experience in March, around the time of the vernal equinox. That’s when I discovered the phenomenon that continues to amaze and delight people of all ages. I first learned about the “magic broom trick” on Facebook. It seems that a woman in Prattville, Alabama was sweeping one day and set her broom down to go do something else. But instead of the broom leaning against the wall or falling to the floor, it stood straight up–all by itself.
Naturally, she began taking photos with her cell phone. It wasn’t long before a local television station reported the story. Then the Internet got hold of it. The rest, as they say, is history.
I first witnessed the broom trick myself right here in Cookeville after a book discussion luncheon. The hostess was retrieving guests’ coats from the hall closet when she noticed her broom hanging on a nail. “Hey,” she said, “have any of you heard the rumor that a broom will stand by itself this time of year? It has something to do with the days being exactly as long as the nights.”
“It’s no rumor,” said one of the guests. “People all over Livingston are doing it. One neighborhood has a broom standing in almost every driveway.”
“It’s not because of the equinox,” said another. “It’s because of the way Venus and Jupiter are lined up right now. The flat part of the broom has to be facing north for the trick to work.”
“LET’S TRY IT!!!” the rest of us said in unison.
Sure enough, after just a couple of attempts our hostess had the broom standing on its own. The rest of us were totally dumbfounded. This was no optical illusion, no photo shopped gimmick. A broom was really and truly standing up all by itself.
We tiptoed carefully around it on our way out the door, each of us eager to get home and try the trick with our own brooms.
My early attempts were a bust. Probably, I soon deduced, because my inside broom has soft nylon bristles cut on a slant. The outside broom is pitifully worn and misshapen. There was nothing to be done but go shopping for a brand new broom.
I found the perfect one at the perfect price. Five bucks at Dollar General Store. It’s a straw broom with a sturdy wooden handle that has a padded rubber handgrip to prevent blisters. Not that blisters could ever happen with my new broom, because I don’t actually sweep with it. Nor do I allow anyone else to.
This broom is strictly for show.
I stood it up on March 21. It remained upright for four days, when the cutest dog in the whole world charged into the kitchen and knocked it over. Rats. But maybe the trick would work at other special times. Like April 13th, a Friday. Yes! Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Right on.
Then came the real test. George and I were invited to a cookout to celebrate the summer solstice. He took skillet apple pie. I took the magic broom and set it up—facing north, of course– in the middle of the party room. All the revelers were amazed, though a few of the more scientifically disposed among them postulated that perhaps the broom was standing simply because it followed the laws of physics. A flat bottom, flexible bristles, and low center of gravity meant that the broom would balance every day of the year, facing any direction.
Poppycock, I told them. It’s magic, pure and simple.
(July 1, 2012)