by Mike McHugh
This classic column originally appeared in The Jambalaya News on July 26, 2012.
I’m sitting here enjoying Friday the 13th—the day, not the movie. I don’t much go for scary movies. If I want to be scared, I can just call my doctor and have him repeat to me the results of my last blood test.
I’m not superstitious, either, and that’s why I’m enjoying my day. I never did understand why certain, otherwise intelligent, people would believe that ill might befall them just because it’s a certain number Friday. Sure, getting run over in the parking lot at five in the afternoon as your co-workers scramble to make happy hour is a distinct possibility, particularly if I happen to be one of the co-workers, but other than that, what’s there to be afraid of?
I was curious about how all this Friday the 13th stuff got started, so I looked it up. I learned that the superstition originated in the nineteenth century, when the Italian composer, Gioachino Rossini, died on that day. Rossini, you must understand, was the Elvis of the 1800’s, famous for such works as “Jailhouse Overture” and “Viva Las Venice,” and so it’s no surprise that the date of his passing is so infamous. But then I also noted that the rapper, Tupac, also died on Friday the 13th, and so I figure things should now be considered even.
I marked the day by listening to a little Black Sabbath. It was their first album, which, as luck would have it, was released on Friday the 13th. I still have it in vinyl. I got the copy as a present on my thirteenth birthday. It has so many scratches that it sounds like Ozzy Osbourne was featured on lead paper shredder. But I didn’t care. It brought back memories of my joyous youth, a time when my only concern was whether my sister would be able to find where I hid her Donny Osmond records, thus again exposing my ears to non-stop playing of “Puppy Love.”
One interesting tidbit that turned up in my research concerns the financial impact of Friday the 13th. It turns out that each and every Friday the 13th saps a billion dollars from the American economy. Just think; the government could build four Bridges to Nowhere for a billion dollars. It could buy the U.S. Army maybe a half dozen commodes. It could bring electricity to a thousand remote African villages, or it could cover Al Gore’s utility bill for the month.
I was thinking about contacting my congressman and asking him to introduce a bill to eliminate the thirteenth day of any month where it would fall on a Friday. I’m not usually one to get involved in political causes, as they are usually no-win situations. I mean, look what happened to poor Joe the Plumber. He dares to challenge a presidential candidate on his economic policy, and all of a sudden he’s got political operatives snooping around to see if he has any outstanding library fines.
Still, Friday the 13th isn’t exactly what you would call a hot-button issue. I doubt that Rush Limbaugh gets many calls about it. So, taking a stand on it should be relatively safe, and besides, my library fines are paid up. But why take chances? For all I know, there could be a big, underground, pro-Friday the 13th lobby out there, just waiting for someone to speak out against them, someone they can focus their anger toward. I could see them protesting out in front of my house, marching back and forth with signs that say, “THIRTEEN IS KEEN”, making sure to step on every crack in the sidewalk as they go.
But, more importantly, the real solution to this problem is not found by legislating it out of existence. Rather, we’ve got to somehow change people’s hearts and minds, to cure them of this irrational fear. What we need is a Thirteen-step Program, where they can learn to abandon such silly superstations and instead worry about things that they have good reason to fear, such as another season of The Bachelorette.
Most people who fear Friday the 13th probably don’t even know that their phobia has a name, but it does. It’s called “friggatriskadekkaphobia”, which I think is also the title of a Black Sabbath song. If anyone realized that he had an affliction with such a dreadful-sounding name, I’d bet that he’d do anything to be cured of it. He would even go so far as to dial a help line and pay $19.95 a minute to talk to a support person on the other side of the world who is more fluent in Klingon than English.
Which makes me wonder, how do you say “friggatriskadekkaphobia” in Klingon? That’d probably cost a hundred bucks in and of itself.