Darrell Huckaby - 02/13/09

Batten down the hatches, y'all don't walk under any ladders and if a black cat crosses your path, run over that sucker. It's Friday the 13th and you all know what that means. Bad luck is right around the corner - and if you don't believe that just take a look at your latest 401K statement.

Now I am not superstitious myself, but I do n't believe in taking chances, either. I do n't like to fly on airplanes on Friday the 13th - well, that's not a good indicator; I don't like to fly on airplanes period - and I will have a long line of cars behind me wherever I have to drive because I won't be going very fast.

Some people take the whole thing very seriously, too. There is even a name for being afraid of this date. Paraskevidekatriaphobia. That's a morbid irrational fear of Friday the 13th. I ain't got that because I refuse to have a condition that I can't spell, but a lot of folks do and now it seems like there might be something to it.

A bunch of scientists in Great Britain did a study and found out that even though a lot of people stay completely off the highways when the 13th comes on TGIF Day, admissions to hospital emergency rooms for injuries suffered in traffic accidents always seem to go up - by as much as 52 percent - and you know the British would never make a mistake about anything dealing with hospitals or health care. Just ask Congress if you don't believe me. They are dying to copy their health care model.

Some years have as few as one Friday the 13th and others have as many as three - including good old 2009. Since the first one comes in February and the first 28 days of the March calendar always mimics February, even if you make it through today unscathed you'll get another shot at bad luck in just four weeks.

I am certain that everybody has heard that the date is unlucky, but have you ever wondered why? Well, if you have, I've got you covered. After extensive research I learned that the belief goes back to ancient times. Nobody seems to know for sure exactly how far back it goes but there are an awful lot of people who take this thing very seriously. Even though Friday is a big night for eating out, fewer folks will do so on the 13th than any other Friday night, all things being equal.

And I bet not many of the folks eating in will be having peanut butter sandwiches tonight either. That's just a guess, of course. I heard that a lot of folks call in sick for work, too - although those calls won't be as plentiful as they might be if we were in say, April or May, and the temperature was going to climb into the low 80s this afternoon.

The number 13 seems to be a bigger culprit than the day of the week. A lot of people avoid the number 13 even if Friday is not involved. A lot of cities skip over the number 13 when they number their streets or avenues and a lot of hotels and office buildings don't admit to having a 13th floor. Many athletes balk at wearing the number on their jerseys and a lot of coaches, including many that I know quite well, refuse to issue the number to any team member - and if you are a wedding planner or caterer or photographer, go ahead and plan on taking the night off because nobody in their right mind would ever think about tying the knot on Friday the 13th. Weddings are already unlucky enough in and of themselves. Why push the issue?

There are lots and lots of other superstitions associated with the day - and the number - too. Some people believe that if you seat 13 people at a dining table that one of them will surely die before the sun sets - or the moon rises if you happen to be a late eater. Some people insist that Eve made Adam eat that apple on Friday the 13th, too - but I've never found anything like that in my Bible.

I did see one of the worst movies in the history of the world On Friday the 13th. David Croom was with me and we were at the Strand Theater in Covington. The movie was, fittingly, Friday the 13th, the original slasher movie. It took me four or five hours to regain my appetite - a personal record - and four of five months before I felt safe in the woods again.

One more thing about Friday the 13th. If you change your sheets today you will have bad dreams tonight - guaranteed. If you're scared say you're scared but if you aren't - go ahead and give it a try - and then let my know how it comes out.

And I have tried real hard to avoid saying it, but I did not meet my lovely wife Lisa on Friday the 13th (it was a Monday, and the 30th) but I did propose on that date.

See how lucky it can be! Go ahead and invite 12 friends to supper.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.