Happy Friday the 13th. A day that strikes, if not terror, then caution into the hearts of many. There’s even a name for it. Triskaidekaphobia. This particular Friday the 13th falls in October, the month of spooky happenings and Halloween. A writer’s dream. Add in a black cat and a bubbling cauldron of apple cider and you have the perfect setting for all of your deepest fears.
Triskaidekaphobia isn’t all about Friday the 13th. It’s about a fear of the number thirteen. The tarot death card is numbered thirteen. Of course, practitioners of tarot will assure you that the card relates to change, not mortality. Still, seeing that card pop up in your reading gives one pause. Then there’s thirteen at a table. Besides making male/female seating difficult, it also means someone is going to die within the year. Who comes up with these things, and does it result in a footrace to the table not to seated last?
Whether the number thirteen is unlucky is a matter of viewpoint. The cascading disasters that dogged Apollo 13 kept it from a moon landing, but they returned safely. Had they dodged the unlucky thirteen curse? Many Western high-rises omit the thirteenth floor. That’s a bit ridiculous. The thirteenth floor exists no matter how you label it. It must be easy to pull the wool over the eyes of karma. I’ve heard of writers who decline to advertise the thirteenth book in a series and leave it unnumbered. Then there are others who have filled that slot with a holiday novella. Rather novel (pun intended) concepts.
In Eastern culture, thirteen is a lucky number. I agree. Friday the thirteenth is my lucky day. I’ve closed on two houses on the thirteenth and sold two others on the same day. It’s hard to know if I’m foolish or fearless. That’s also the day I signed my first publishing contract.
What scares me are commas. Luckily, my editor is a comma champion and unafraid to wield a red pen where necessary. Commas create pauses, they also create clarity. Just ask the Courts. On March 13th, 2017, in the matter of O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, 851 F.3d 69 (1st Cir. 2017), the Court wrote in its ruling on, “[f]or want of a comma, we have this case. The lack of a comma cost Oakhurst Dairy five million dollars. Would an additional day’s deliberation have changed the outcome? Should comma phobia rank with Triskaidekaphobia? The jury is out.
How do you feel about Friday the 13th? Any tales to share?