"We're going to raise your school taxes by 12 percent," the head of the city council could announce. "Last week, I saw 12 dead catfish in the fountain outside Bailey's Drugstore. Obviously, each catfish portends a 1 percent tax increase. Look on the bright side: at least there weren't 25 of them."
"I'm raising the prime interest rate a half point," the chairman of the Federal Reserve might proclaim. "This is partially to battle inflation, but mostly because I saw two flaming comets in the sky and each of them represented a quarter-point increase in the prime."
How likely is it that signs and portents will ever be adopted by the American people? More likely than you think. Just last week, my best friend said that a cluster of mighty birds of prey hovering over his backyard was a sure sign the Philadelphia Eagles would win the Super Bowl this season.
I disagree. I think the hovering birds signify a tax hike. Much as I would like to believe that signs and portents say otherwise, you have to be realistic about this stuff.
Joe Queenan, the author of nine books, writes regularly for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Guardian.