TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA? Read it, Don’t Say It

Explaining Number 13


By Harry M. Covert


I can’t resist it. Friday past marked Triskaidekaphobia. No, this is not when the populace is number 13 firstincessantly scratching, or itching, or running for the hills, or fearing things like ghosts, or scurrying from black cats and ladders or debating the mark of the beast.

Without question, many good people live with all kinds of personal fears and demons, trying to avoid full moons and political cajoling and swindling. The last two words are borrowed from author-editor extraordinaire Marion Elizabeth Rodgers. She knows more about H. L. Mencken than anybody.

This thing of Triskaidekaphobia is truly fun to consider as we enjoy another day above ground. We don’t have to get embroiled in local politics. There is a lot to talk about it, but it’s Friday the 13th.

So, let me warn everybody today, please be careful out there. Actually, when Fridays come up on the 13th day of a calendar month, it should be a fun time – not one to be frightened or fearful of the number 13. It is a myth. It is one where even the calmest people have a touch of queasiness in the back of their minds.

number 13 cakeLots of sporting figures wore, or wear, the numeral 13: basketball’s Wilt Chamberlain; football’s Kurt Warner; and New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez, and currently Baltimore Orioles’ Manny Machado. The list is so long I’ll stop here.

Friday the 13th is considered the unluckiest day of the year. Such foolishness. Do people really believe in luck? Well, the serious description comes from that brilliant president Thomas Jefferson: “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Others have borrowed this quote.

It’s more fun, of course, to spread myths as truths. In these days of political turmoil, it’s important and a must to be able to choose between facts and fiction. The spin experts are not limited to one partisan. It’s part of the business on every level to win over everybody. Gullibility isn’t limited. Consider all the avenues in public relations, advertising and politics and media people? It’s a good thing professionals in all societal levels aren’t required to take courtroom oaths of honesty and veracity.

Baseball fans watched a Washington Nationals pitcher strikeout 20 major league batters last Wednesday night. Trying to hit a round ball with a round bat doesn’t involve luck. Throwing that round ball at speeds up to 95 miles per hour is a challenge of all kinds of dipsy-doodle styles – curve balls, fast balls and others.

Luck doesn’t play into the journalism trade either. Reporters, much to the annoyance of critics, need only write the nom 13 tablefacts, who did what, when, why, and how. And this brings on rabid and vociferous reactions and more stories.

What fun it was to have daily newspapers in the AM and PM. Critics (read that public figures everywhere) loved to say: “the morning mistake and afternoon repeater.” But, they paid for subscriptions, read every page and enjoyed seeing their friends and or opponents stories, especially when the facts were negative and brought laughs. Today the irreverence is more pronounced in all mediums.

Times haven’t changed. Even on this Friday the 13th, talk is cheap but fun for the writing venues. Luck?

The public is always up-in-arms about something. There is always something to report.

Some years ago a youthful scribe (not me) was sent to cover a major society wedding. The editor needed more lines to fill the space and demanded more words. The cub wrote: “and the band played music.” Witty I think.

Dealing with the public and sources is not an easy job. On Fridays the 13th, like every other day of the week, month and year, there are always good stories to write. There are always worthy unnamed “reliable sources.”

Let’s put to rest the day of 13. Research from various sources note “the unlucky thirteen may have started at the Last Supper where Judas, the betrayer disciple, was the number 13 to sit at the table. Scripture doesn’t mention this.

Using some “newspaper talk” it’s -30-. In other words, The End, or ###.


NOTE: This column appeared Friday the 13th in The Tentacle.