Sunday, August 03, 2008


The City Fathers (and maybe there were a few City Mothers among them, although I sort of doubt it) discovered, re-discovered, found or remembered a large ballroom that somehow lay forgotten on the 14th, and top, floor of the city’s highest building.

It’s one flight up the stairs from the 12th floor.

That’s a tradition in this country, possibly in others: No floor is to be the unlucky 13th, as foolish as that sounds and as foolish as that is. I visited a Catholic hospital, run by nuns, in which, on every floor, room 12 was followed by room 14. I noticed that one day, when I spotted 612 next to 614. “13’s aren’t done here,” I was told.

All those triskaidephobianists have left their mark on the world – by not leaving a mark. Most of us leave something behind: a building, a business, a family. But the triskers are evident only by an empty space that’s not even empty. It’s the nothing between 12 and 14. It’s the nothingness of non-being, the elephant that’s not in the parlor because we removed the parlor … only out of fear.

Before we smile at the Chinese affinity for their lucky number 8, we might ask ourselves what’s to fear in the number 13? It is so ingrained in our society we don’t dare cross it lest we have something horrible happen to us. What might it be? Almost anything and let’s not even think of what it might be. It’s just better to avoid it “just in case.” Unless, like me, you were born on the 13th and had no choice.


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