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 Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

Friday the 13th

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
Friday the 13th is upon us and, despite our best efforts to resist that which we don't believe we believe, superstitions rule the day.

We walk more carefully, watch out for black cats crossing our path, and knock on wood. We don't care that a rabbit's foot didn't bring very good luck to the hapless bunny who owned it, we rub it anyway. Even if we don't like our mother, we won't step on a crack and break her back.

These superstitions are rampant in America, though we usually scoff when accused of being superstitious and deny everything, insisting we're too mature to believe in such nonsense.

The popular, humorous magazine, Mental Floss, has come up with some facts about Friday the 13th, which I herewith pass on to my loyal readers, to wit:

1. Is the fear of Friday the 13th based on the fear of the number thirteen itself?

Yes. And when you think about it, 13 is when numbers reach a new level when it comes to common items. There are 12 months in a year, 12 inches in a foot, 12 items in a dozen, 12 signs of the zodiac, and when we learn our multiplication tables in school, they go all the way up to 12 times 12. While some think that Christianity deems the number unlucky, researchers have determined that the modern-day fear of 13 is based on Norse mythology. According to the story, 12 gods were dining at Valhalla when a 13th guest named Loki joined the party. Loki ended up causing the death of Balder, the Norse god of light and joy. From that day forward, the legend goes, the number 13 has been unlucky.

2. Is there anyplace in the world where Friday the 13th is considered lucky?

There are a few places, in fact. In China and much of Asia, the date is considered fortunate, or at the very least not unlucky. You'd have to go down under to find the people who really think Friday the 13th is lucky, however. In Australia, lottery agents report a brisk business every Friday the 13th, selling 50 percent more tickets than average on that day.

3. NASA tells us that a Friday the 13th coming up several years from now might be exciting.

That's what they say, yes. In 2004, the organization's Near Earth Object Program reported that a sizeable asteroid had a one-in-60 chance of colliding with Earth on Friday, April the 13th, 2029. The thousand-foot-wide asteroid would cause major damage wherever it hit. They predicted massive tsunamis if it hit the ocean, or destruction of an area the size of Texas if it hit land. Luckily, further calculations determined that the asteroid will miss the Earth by about 20,000 miles, but that will still be close enough for it to put on quite a visual show in the sky. As it turns out, an asteroid that size gets that close to Earth only about once every 1,000 years.

4. Who were the three scariest guys to be born on Friday the 13th?
Mental Floss researchers chose three. First is Christopher Plummer, the long-serving Canadian actor who has appeared in dozens of films over the past fifty years, including many horror pictures. The second is Steve Buscemi, whose gaunt appearance has served him well in roles in films like "Fargo" and "Con Air," in which he portrayed a serial killer. But the spookiest person born on Friday the 13th has to be Alfred Hitchcock. He was born on Friday, August 13, 1899. The Master of Suspense died back in 1980, but had he lived to be 100, Hitchcock would have hit the century mark in August of 1999, again on Friday the 13th.
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Fargo
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Friday the 13th
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Alfred Hitchcock
5. Does Friday the 13th really have an impact on the U.S. economy?

According to an ABC News report from 2005, businesses lose nearly one billion dollars every Friday the 13th, owing to everything from people who stay home from work to those who won't travel on the unlucky day. Some of this loss is due to lower volume on the stock market, but investors shouldn't be frightened of Friday the 13th. A study looking at stock prices over the last 50 years proved that the Dow performs better on Friday the 13th than on other Fridays.
Friday the 13th Quiz:
What's the maximum number of Friday the 13ths that can occur in any given calendar year?
A. one
B. two
C. three
D. four
ANSWER BELOW
Those in the Biblical know say that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden on a Friday, Noah's flood started on a Friday, and Christ was crucified on a Friday. Christians also noted that twelve witches plus one devil are present at Satanic ceremonies so Friday and 13 make a deadly combination.

Admittedly, we love to be scared, as shown by our actions at Halloween and our reactions at scary movies. But Friday the 13th is the opposite -- we do everything we can to NOT be scared or have bad luck.

We don't walk under ladders, throw spilled salt over our left shoulder, don't break mirrors causing seven years of bad luck. We don't put our hat on a bed, open an umbrella in the house, or return a borrowed dish empty.

So be careful out there. On Friday the 13th, The Force will not be with you.
Answer: C. three.
Every calendar year has at least one Friday the 13th, but no more than three of them can occur in any year.
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus" >
October 4, 2006 column
Email: maggie@maggievanostrand.com
 
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