If you suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia you might just want to go back to bed. Don’t worry. It just sounds dirty, and it’s not contagious or dangerous — at least I don’t think so. What it is, however, is the fear of Friday the 13th, which today happens to be. Now don’t get friggatriskaidekaphobia confused with plain old triskaidekaphobia. That is merely the fear of the number 13 in general. Adding the frigga to the front of the word is where the Friday comes in.
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Now to tell you the truth, I have never been afraid of the number 13 -- although I wouldn't let any of the players on any of the many sports teams I have ever coached wear it. I'm not superstitious, understand -- I just don't like to take chances. I certainly have never been afraid of Friday. To a school teacher it is the best day of every week, regardless of what happens. Therefore I have never held any particular trepidation when glancing at a calendar and discovering that the 13th day of a given month would happen to fall on the day before Saturday.
I have done all sorts of things on Friday the 13th and engaged in all manner of risky behavior without consequence. Last winter I flew to Arizona on Friday, Feb. 13, and wound up with the same number of takeoffs and landings. David Croom and I once took in the original "Friday the 13th" movie at the Strand Theater on the actual date and lived to tell about it. I am pretty sure that I proposed to my lovely wife, Lisa, on Friday the 13th and that has worked out OK -- so far. In fact, I cannot think of a single calamity that has ever befallen me on the day that so many people fear.
As I pondered these things earlier in the week -- in my brain, mind you; my heart is strictly reserved for a more relevant manner of pondering -- I became curious as to why so many people have a phobia about the number 13 in general and Friday the 13th specifically. I did what any self-respecting columnist with a deadline would do under similar circumstances. I Googled it.
Here is what I found out. According to various sources -- yes, I admit that Wikipedia was one of them -- there was no reference in popular culture or literature about Friday the 13th being an unlucky day prior to the late 19th century. However, the number 13 has long been considered unlucky because it exceeds, by one, the number 12, which is the number of completeness. You know, 12 months in a year, 12 hours on a clock, 12 disciples and so forth. Folks say that if you add a 13th anything it is just bad luck, but I don't buy that. If that were the case, 14 would be even more unlucky than 13 and 15 more unlucky than 14 and on and on and on.
And Friday has long been thought to be an unlucky day because Chaucer alluded to that fact in his Canterbury Tales, written in the 14th century. Chaucer obviously never taught a class of hormonal teenagers for an entire week. If he had, he wouldn't have labeled Friday as unlucky.
So today has gotten a bad rap for no real good reason. I also tried to determine if a lot of really bad things had ever happened on Friday the 13th to justify the fearful reputation with which it has been tagged. Other than the fact that four of the 12 horrible films in the franchise of the same name were actually released on a Friday that fell on the 13th of a month, the worst thing that ever happened on Friday the 13th seems to be the death of Tupac Shakur.
That was it. I could find no evidence of any other earthshaking maladies. In fact, the day seems to be a lot safer than others in many ways. For example, there are fewer fires reported and fewer traffic accidents than other Fridays -- perhaps because people are actually more careful on those days or perhaps stay at home to avoid potential problems. And despite urban legends to the contrary, no major airlines report a significant drop off in traffic on that day.
So there you have it. If you have been suffering from fear of what today may bring, your fears are unfounded. Get dressed and get out and about and enjoy your day. You'll have it made for three more months. The next Friday the 13th is not until April. And let me tell you -- it won't be anything compared with what happens on April 15 -- or whatever day they decided to make income taxes due this year.
Now that will be an unlucky day!
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.