(This past weekend was the final run on the road for the Acoustic Trio. I’m still processing everything, but in short, it was a fun and joyful weekend! For now, I’m going to nitpick about a little something…)
Stepping into the elevator at our Bethesda hotel this past weekend, I noticed something I hadn’t in a while – codified superstition.
The hotel had no 13th floor.
Poor number 13. You get such a bad rap.
Of course, the elevator panel isn’t truthful at all – the 14th floor in this case is the 13th floor. It seems that the hoteliers and the guests they hope to attract don’t want to be reminded of that fact.
Why such fear of 13? And why does that fear irritate me so much? Doesn’t everyone know that you’re just a number? That it’s simply the sixth prime number? A baker’s dozen isn’t evil. Jesus + the original disciples lineup = 13. There are 13 lunar cycles (and for many women, menstrual cycles) in a calendar year. Grades K through 12? That equals 13 too. Every suit in a deck of cards has 13 cards. (Geez, you think that fact alone would send any superstitious gambler screaming for the door!)
My Scottish grandmother was at least aware of, and sometimes a subscriber to, many superstitious customs, which were then passed down to my mother, and then to me. There were the usual ones, like the black cat thing, lucky pennies, and tossing a little spilled salt over your shoulder, and not walking under ladders or stepping on sidewalk cracks. My mom held no truck with the black cat one, but the others did find their way into my mom’s daily life.
Then there were others that I found even more obscure: Don’t put new shoes on the table; don’t open an umbrella indoors; make sure your housework is all done before New Year’s Day; and there are so many more that I’ve long forgotten.
More than forgotten, actually. Rejected. I remember my toes would curl a little with embarrassment each time I heard them repeated.
I suppose the irritation in that elevator comes from a need for clarity and shared reality. Numbers only have the power that we give them. And I reject the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ luck. I think there is just ‘luck’ – there are things that are just happening, moment after moment, and how we respond to them is what fits them into categories of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, what determines their place in the unfolding of our lives.
For what it’s worth, our room was on the 9th floor…