May 6, 2016 by T. Gregory Argall
A week from today is Friday the 13th.
(Cue the spooky music and flash of lightning.)
According to tradition Friday the 13th is considered to be unlucky.
While a certain hatchet-wielding hockey-mask enthusiast has been associated with paraskevidekatriaphobia since 1980, the superstition has been around much longer.
The dictionary defines “luck” as “
Basically, the concern over Friday the 13th is that random, unpredictable, bad luck will befall everyone on a specific calendar day which is easily foreseen but completely unexpected.
Or something like that.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Well done, smart guy. You debunked a superstition. Big deal.”
First of all, there’s no need for sarcasm. You won’t make many friends with that attitude.
Secondly, that’s my point. Superstitions are generally made to be debunked. That’s why it’s so easy. Most superstitions, such as wearing a goat’s liver as a hat to improve carpentry skills, or eating your own arm to cure the common cold, pretty much debunk themselves.
But other superstitions, like, say, religion or racism. are so convoluted and complex in their self-justification that they linger in stark defiance of logic, common sense, and reality, persisting longer than anyone could have predicted, like your weird uncle who still says, “Happy New Year,” well into February.
On the face of it, all the Friday the 13th hullabaloo should fall into the first category. It’s so easily debunked that I did it just as a warm up.
And yet it still prevails, elbowing it’s way to the front of people’s consciousness every time the calendar presents that particular combination of day and date.
“Oh, no, it’s Friday the 13th.”
“Be careful, it’s Friday the 13th.”
“Don’t walk under a ladder today; it’s Friday the 13th.”
“Avoid certain felines today, by walking into traffic if necessary.”
It’s become a societal obsession. Whenever that day rolls around modern, rational, civilization is suddenly afraid of the dark and cripplingly terrified of doing things that we were unlikely to do in the first place.
If you’re not a construction or maintenance worker, why is walking under a ladder even an option for you? Standard safety guidelines require a spotter to be standing by to actively prevent you from walking under a ladder every day of the year, not just on Friday the 13th.
People know that it’s ridiculous and foolish but they play along because they figure, meh, what harm could it do?
That is just the sort of outlook that can lead to all sorts of problems. (Remember when the Trump campaign was just a joke? “Meh, what harm could it do?” Oh, how we laughed in those days of hilarity. Not so funny now, is it?)
A long term awareness program is needed, in order to continually show people how silly the whole idea is.
Each month, pick a day at random and treat it as if it were the calendaric embodiment of all ill tidings and bad fortune.
“Hey, Bob, be careful out there. It’s Tuesday the 23rd and you know what that means.”
“Ugh! Monday the 19th. Hope I don’t break a mirror today.”
“Gaaah! It’s Thursday the 2nd and everywhere I look there’s a black cat.”
“I can’t come to work today. It’s Wednesday the 27th. It’s bad luck.”
Maybe eventually people will start to see the foolishness of their Friday the 13th panic. At the very least, the rest of us will have some fun.
Try to be nice to each other.