"" Writer's Wanderings: Would You Travel On Friday The 13th?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Would You Travel On Friday The 13th?

My aunt was superstitious. Don't point at a coming storm cloud, you'll make it worse. Don't walk under a ladder. That one seemed more common sense. Beware a black cat crossing your path. Of course breaking a mirror would bring seven years worth of bad luck. And putting your shoes on the table would evoke a horrible bad omen. I tend to think the last two were to keep my brother and I from misbehaving.

I don't remember her cautions about Friday the 13th although I'm sure there were some. People in the states (and probably a few other countries) tend to get nervous about the number thirteen. It is often skipped over when numbering floors of a building, or units of living space, or seats in an airplane. The fear of the number 13 is called Triskaidekaphobia. Try saying that three times in a row.

We actually had two presidents who avoided contact with the number 13 and especially traveling on the 13th. President Franklin Roosevelt would not travel on Friday the 13th and would not host a party with only 13 guests. President Hoover had similar anxiety.

Mark Twain once was invited to a party and was to be the thirteenth guest. A friend warned him not to go. He later said that he should have followed the friend's advice. There was only enough food for 12 people.

In Japan the unlucky numbers are quite different. Number 4 is sometimes pronounced shi which refers to death. And the number 9 has a similar forbidding. It is pronounced ku which is associated with agony or torture. Often you will not find a Japanese hospital room with the number four and in other areas of life four and nine are not combined with other numbers because of the interpretation that may be applied.

I would not plan my travel around the 13th whether it falls on a Friday or not. And 4 and 9 do not frighten me either. I do occasionally think about going around ladders and I pull my hand back quickly when I find myself pointing at a dark cloud. Some things you grow up with never leave you.

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