News For Nerds - Friday the 13th Edition

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 9/13/2013 |
  • 10:00 am
News For Nerds - Friday the 13th Edition

Friday the 13th is a billion-dollar disaster. Not the movie series, but the actual day itself. There’s a report that businesses in America will lose close to that amount of money through lost productivity. Blame it on the power of superstition.

Which is silly when you discover that - in many cases - it’s the safest day of the year.

I was sure that the history of this phobia (officially labeled friggatriskaidekaphobia - say that three times real fast) had to go back to at least the middle ages; it just seems medieval, doesn’t it?

But no. There’s little evidence of it in popular culture until early in the 20th century, and then, boy, did it take off!

The white coats at the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute - yes, there really is such a place in Asheville, North Carolina - would have us believe that almost twenty million people in America tremble at the thought of the thirteenth day of the month landing on a Friday. That’s a lot of scaredy-cats.

But why, I wondered? Why aren’t we terrified of Tuesday the Tenth? Well, maybe you are, but, if so, you should book your own visit to Asheville; this article can’t help you.

For starters, we’re infatuated with the number twelve. People are happy with twelve months in the year, there were (or are) twelve Olympic gods, twelve apostles, twelve hours on the face of a clock, and you know darned well how many eggs you bought the last time you went to the store. We like twelve.

So some phobia-folks think that by adding just one more number - the dreaded thirteen - we’re busting up a beautiful thing. We’re wrecking perfection. That’s one too many donuts, dude.

You’ll find buildings, including several hotels, that refuse to have a thirteenth floor for fear of lost revenue. (They’re banking on the fact that many happy campers will neglect to logically calculate that the fourteenth floor is really . . . well, never mind.) There are even some towns that eliminate 13th Street. I feel sad for the number, to be honest.

Then there’s Friday. Now, I’ve always enjoyed a good Friday afternoon and evening, and people usually seem happier at work on that day. No matter how sick we are of hearing the same people blubber “TGIF” every week when we walk in the door, it can’t harshen our mellow.

And yet . . .

An old myth suggests that beginning any sort of travel on a Friday is bad mojo. Chaucer painted Friday in a bad light more than 600 years ago in his Canterbury Tales, and Bible scholars say that Jesus was crucified on that day. That, my friends, is not how you want to end your week.

Put it all together and you have mass hysteria. Personally, I happen to think that some people need to have hysteria of some sort in their life, and, since it usually only happens once or twice a year (with a few exceptions, like last year, 2012), people can have a reasonable allowance of nuttiness without going overboard too often.

Ironically, studies have shown that lots of things are actually safer on Friday the 13th, including driving. It’s possible that the day frightens enough people into staying home and off the road, thereby making it less crowded and dangerous for the rest of us. To those of you in this camp, I thank you. Stay afraid.

What’s funny is that we’re in a 400-year period when the thirteenth day of the month is statistically more likely to fall on a Friday than any other day of the week. Look it up.

To those of you who refuse to fly on Friday the 13th, or who elect to drive 35 in a 55 on this day only, I suppose we can tolerate your fear, and maybe feel a bit sorry for you. Phobias can truly be debilitating for some; hey, I’m not overly fond of spiders, so I get it (sorta).

But if you prefer to stay in bed the whole day, you should know that we suspect that you’re merely using this modern superstition - and the industry built around it - to pawn your work off on the rest of us.

And we’re not crazy about that.

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