What happened to Bob on 7th of June?

by Shauna Smith Leishman, June 2021

Last Monday I had every intent to join the monthly zoom meeting of VWRG but all of a sudden about twenty minutes before it was time – which had been moved up half an hour to keep Bob in Cyprus in the loop – I was distracted into something else and didn’t end up checking in. I knew I’d missed some kind of chaos though, when a couple of hours later an email came in from Bob, apologizing for having missed the meeting and he couldn’t fathom how it had happened. I began laughing, bouncing about the sofa and just said “another MR strike!” We all know Bob is a super reliable, conscientious president who has always gone out of his way to accommodate many people in an organized, present style. He of course has good helpers to carry things along but everyone does look towards Bob, in the end, for his shepherding abilities because he can be trusted. At the expense of being misunderstood here, I’d like to try and explain.

So what is MR? I first heard about this when I was a young woman, probably still at university, and nodded my overwhelmed head at the thought. But within a few years, it became apparent that if I wanted to keep my mental health, it might be a good idea to learn about and pay attention, to dance around this little mischief maker – rather than be clobbered to the floor – that comes along about three times a year. I would be sailing along in life, always attempting to get a handle on things and grow in confidence and then things would suddenly start falling apart and when I’d finally begin to suspect I was genuinely going crazy – I’d find out we were about a week into a Mercury Retrograde. I began looking it up and sticking the dates on my calendar so I knew it was coming. It took another dozen years or so though, before I finally learned how to deal with it in such a way it wouldn’t knock me silly and I pretty much can successfully weave my way through them now, fairly stress free.

The planet Mercury going into retrograde means it’s a period of time when it appears to be moving away, or backwards, from earth as it does its orbital loop. All of the planets do this retrograde thing and all of them affect different things but I’ve never paid much attention to the others. The bigger, slower planets will go through their retrogrades for months and even years sometimes. Mercury is small and fast and so it does a complete orbit about every four months and this retrograde will last about three weeks. I’ve nicknamed it ‘the Universe’s built in humbling factor’. If you think you are in control of things, on top of the world, everything is going your way – this can all fall apart when an MR hits.

Mercury is the old Messenger god – also known as Hermes – who flew through the air on winged heels to carry messages. Basically this little god still affects communication and travel and I’ve noticed, electronics. So during an MR, miscommunications abound, machinery breaks down (cell phones, computers, appliances) and travel can develop all kinds of hiccups. I had to call an appliance repairman in on one washing machine for at least three Mercury Retros before giving up and buying a new one. Oh – and I make sure never to buy anything electronic during an MR. This probably did not have as noticeable an effect on people back in the days before our now constant, heavy reliance on all things electric and instant communications around the world on a little phone in your hand or box on your desk.


Mercury is affiliated with the Gemini sign and both my husband and I are Geminis. It took awhile but I finally noticed that we would get into a big nonsense argument – around the time an MR started. It took me another few years before I stopped my tendency to fly into arage at a perceived offence, often during an MR and get into a squabble with someone. I began to break out of that one by stopping – mid rage flow – and saying “let’s stop this, put it aside and consider it again for discussion when MR is over”. I don’t recall ever resuming the fierce quarrel a couple of weeks later.
When I had my shop, I trained my employees to watch that orders would be coming in with lots of errors and the till would often break down in some way and that I wouldn’t get annoyed about it during an MR. Just wait until it is finished and clean up the mess.
One time I was telling a couple of newish friends about it over lunch, because there had been some kind of hassle around us getting together and while they were grumbling, I was nonchalant. At my explanation, they pretty much scoffed at me and thought I was nuts and we carried on. I’m used to this. My friend called me a few hours after we’d parted to tell me something weird was going on at her house. She lived in a cul de sac in a newer housing estate and realised suddenly, that she was hearing a conversation in a house across the road – through her telephone. She had run over to knock on their door and in everyone’s shock, they figured out that the telephone lines – had somehow turned their houses into an intercom/loudspeaker system for the other. She now became a believer in this newfangled idea and I added her to my list of people that I warn an MR is coming. Through the years, as friends and relatives encounter a mishap and my diagnosis – they welcomed being on my list for ‘the MR is coming!’ notices. To brace, to be in the know.

There are two international incidents which I can recall, that I feel were hit by the MR affliction. The both happened in the early 2000’s. One of them was when a US submarine bounced up to the surface without warning and knocked a Japanese ship to pieces, killing a number on board. They never could conclusively pin the blame on any one person and the inquiry even said “the accident was caused by a series and combination of individual negligences onboard the (submarine)”. The other famous oopsy was the 2000 election of the second President Bush – when there were a bunch of voting machines in Florida which malfunctioned and held up the election results for weeks and still ended up with a conflicted result. Voting day was on the last day of an MR and I saw it as the MR donkey kicking a last backward punt as it ran off. I can’t wait to hear how the G7 summit currently being held in the UK is actually going. I often fantasize about being called in to be a consultant with top officials to advise on scheduling and dealing with MR mishaps – like that wise old woman or man or Yoda gnome who shows up to mouth mysterious oracles in times of crisis in the movies. My close circle in the know, sometimes spend MRs passing around mishaps they’ve encountered in the day at work, or how many times a till has gone down or an email has disappeared or a package or a reservation on a vacation goes missing, etc. Or your phone gets mysterious ideas of it’s own or something that normally works on your computer suddenly gets creative without your permission. People have learned to walk away from squabbling or mediate others to calm down. In the last week I’ve personally encountered several “I can’t see what you sent me/was posted” “oh, there it is”. Bob’s letter would go into that pot. A friend the other day was fuming at how idiotic and useless some deliverymen had been with a washing machine and I just said “and you bought a washing machine during MR?”

Mercury Retrograde is a good time to organize things, prepare contracts to be signed after it’s over, not start any big venture, just hold steady. Let go of the idea of rushing to get something done. Make sure if you do something – like shopping or going anywhere or puttering at work – you leave time and attention for slowing down, needing to untangle a mishap. I grow even more careful in my communications and am not frustrated when I can’t understand – or be understood by others. I now laugh a lot, during an MR, rather than think I’m going crazy. I highly recommend this perceptual filter to be worn a few times a year.

Yes, Bob, in my view, it was explicable. You were hacked by a planet going ‘backwards’