Friday, October 13, 2006


Today is Friday the 13th.

Yaaaaaa....!!!! Everybody run for the hills!!!

C'mon, it's just a day, right? Superstition abounds in the human heart. Even though we all realize it is just another day, it doesn't hurt to play it safe, don't you think?

Have you noticed that many buildings don't have a 13th floor? Well, they do have a 13th floor, they just call it the 14th floor. Based on Otis Elevators, nearly 85% of high-rise buildings don't have a 13th floor. In China, some buildings don't have a 4th, 14th, 24th, etc. floor because the word for 4 sounds a lot like the Mandarin word for "death."

So why Friday the 13th? reports:
Friday the Thirteenth - The Scandinavian's believed that the number 13 was unlucky due to the mythological 12 demigods being joined by a 13th, an evil one, who brought misfortune upon humans. It was also said that Christ was crucified on Friday and the number of guests at the party of the Last Supper was 13, with the 13th guest being Judas, the traitor.
I never knew that!

Here's another explanation:

There is a Norse myth about 12 gods having a dinner party at Valhalla, their heaven. In walked the uninvited 13th guest, the mischievous Loki. Once there, Loki arranged for Hoder, the blind god of darkness, to shoot Balder the Beautiful, the god of joy and gladness, with a mistletoe-tipped arrow. Balder died and the Earth got dark. The whole Earth mourned.
Other Common Superstitions:
  • Walking under a ladder brings bad luck
  • Breaking a mirror brings 7 years of bad luck
  • A black cat walking in front of your path brings bad luck.
So this begs the question: is there any such thing as luck? Certainly from a human perspective it seems that some people seem to have better things happen to them than others. It also seems that there are times that just the right thing happens at the right time. I guess it depends on your world view. If you believe in providence and/or predestination, you believe God controls everything. If you are an atheistic naturalist, you think it is all random. Most people fall between these two and think there are some forces unseen that affect our day-to-day. Astrology is a good example of this.

Which reminds me of a joke:
Q: What did the Calvinist say when he fell down the stairs?
A: "Whew! I'm glad that's over with!"

OK, so I don't really want to get into a debate on the subject, but want to go into some of the stranger superstitions. So here are some odd superstitions:
  • It is unlucky to let a pig onto a fishing boat because it will mean that there'll be no catch. I will try to remember that the next time I am tempted.
  • It's bad luck to say the word "pig" while fishing at sea. What's with pigs and boats?
  • Seeing an ambulance is very unlucky unless you pinch your nose or hold your breath until you see a black or a brown dog. What if the dog is driving the ambulance?
  • To cure a cough: take a hair from the coughing person's head, put it between two slices of buttered bread, feed it to a dog, and say, "Eat well you hound, may you be sick and I be sound." Huh? Isn't that completely obvious??
  • Cows lifting their tails is a sure sign that rain is coming. I'd say it is the sign of a bad smell coming.
  • Pictures of an elephant bring luck, but only if they face a door. Does the elephant have to face the door, or the picture? What if the elephant is standing sideways in the picture. Do french doors count?
  • The dried body of a frog worn in a silk bag around the neck averts epilepsy and other fits. Hey, how come they never taught us that in Medical School?
  • If your nose itches, someone is coming to see you. If it's the right nostril, the visitor will be a female, left nostril, male. What if you have three nostrils?
  • A wish will come true if you make it while burning onions. Yeah, if your wish is that everyone would go away.
  • A spider is a repellent against plague when worn around the neck in a walnut shell. And that, my friends, is why I have never gotten the Plague!
  • If a woman sees a robin flying overhead on Valentine's Day, it means she will marry a sailor. If she sees a sparrow, she will marry a poor man and be very happy. If she sees a goldfinch, she will marry a millionaire. If she sees a cockroach flying overhead, she'll marry a lawyer. If she sees a cow flying overhead, it means she is about to get hurt.
I had a chief resident who really thought that there was some sort of cosmic event that happened when you said "gosh, it's really slow tonight" that caused it to become busy. I would tease him, saying "gosh, we haven't had six codes in the same night for a long time!"

Any other odd superstitions?