Some Days Have A Lot Of Nerve
by Al Albers
For those who suffer from triskaidekaphobia, you won’t have to worry about this for the remainder of the 2010 calendar year.
This is not a new computer virus that will erase your computer’s hard drive if you accidentally open a questionable email attachment. Fortunately, it has nothing to do with a computer. Similarly, it won’t affect your television, cell phone or any other electronic device you carry in your pocket or purse, or have in your home. Likewise, it’s not contagious; you can’t get it by shaking someone’s hand, ringing a doorbell, picking up a telephone handset, or emptying the trash can.
I’m sure you’ve already concluded that it must be some kind of phobia (a derivative of the Greek word phobos). It is. For some people, a phobia evokes (what psychiatrists deem to be) an irrational fear that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it. So what type of phobia is this? Let me give you the final hint. Triskaideka is the Greek word for thirteen. Triskaidekaphobia is an abnormal fear of the number thirteen. This phobia has also become widely associated with the superstitions related to Friday the 13th (friggatriskaidekaphobia).
Every calendar year has at least one Friday the 13th and some have two. In the past decade, 2009 was the only year to have three of these (unlucky?) days. For those wondering what the future has in store in the coming decade, only two years - 2012 and 2015 - will have three such Fridays.
The reasons for apprehension about Friday the 13th are lost in the distant past, but it allegedly was a day of ill omen to the ancient Romans and Greeks. Consequently, every culture has tales of bad luck that have been passed down from generation to generation. For example, they say you shoudn't marry, cut your fingernails, change sheets, begin a new job or start a journey on Friday the 13th. In old-world Britain, Fridays were known as “Hangman’s Day” because of its popularity as an execution day. The hangman’s fee was a shilling and a pence: 13 pence.
Superstition, even in modern times, dies hard. Not only is 13 known as “the devil’s dozen,” legend has it that if 13 are seated for dinner one will die within a year.
To add to this irrational thought process, the number 13 is omitted when numbering floors in high-rise office buildings, apartment houses and hotels. Correspondingly, some cities don’t have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue.
Though many people consider the number 13 unlucky, others have a different perspective. Thirteen was a lucky number for King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, and Ulysses and his companions. Indeed, some people consider themselves lucky when they have a U.S. dollar in their pocket. That bill has at least five sets of “13” on its back.
As I mentioned at the onset, Friday the 13th won’t occur again until next year. So if you are superstitious, on May 13, 2011, cross your fingers, knock on wood or carry a rabbit’s foot. Whatever you do be careful that you don’t accidentally spill salt or allow a black cat to cross your path, and don’t walk under a ladder. If you can pull it off, you’ll get through the day without mishap. As a last resort you can always stay home with your doors locked and window shades pulled down. Hey, whatever works!
I’m not superstitious; honestly, I’m not. But it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Let’s see, what’s that saying, “See a penny pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck.”