Here's a tongue twister for you, hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia. It is the fear of 666, aka, the sign of the beast, (devil).
|IN THE 1976 MOVIE, "THE OMEN," THE SIGN OF THE BEAST, "666" WAS EMBEDDED INTO DAMIEN'S SCALP.|
But today, in acknowledgment of it being Sunday, January 13, 2013, we are going to concern ourselves with just triskaidekaphobia...the fear of the number thirteen.
Some Christian traditionalists believe that the earliest "evidence" of thirteen being unlucky goes back to the Last Supper, when the disciple Judas (who betrayed Jesus) was the thirteenth to sit at the table. Even though bible scholars can not find any mention of such a seating sequence in the holy book...the idea of the thirteenth guest to arrive (or anything relating to thirteen) has gained momentum down through the centuries as an unlucky number.
Last year, 2012 was an unlucky year. The economy collapsed, there were more harsh natural disasters than usual and even predictions of the world ending had people jones-ing to start new. But alas, the triskaidekaphobians look out onto the horizon of '13 and fear that our civilization is about to take an even worse hit...but not me.
The first time I heard about this unlucky thirteen superstition, I was seven years old, (1962). My paternal grandmother took my sister and I, on an outing to Downtown Brooklyn that included seeing, "LAWRENCE OF ARABIA," in the Fox Theater, at 10 Flatbush Avenue.
|THE OPULENT 4088-SEAT FOX THEATER OPENED IN 1931. DESPITE ITS POPULARITY AND LANDMARK CREDENTIALS, IT WAS TORN DOWN IN 1971.|
I was twisting in my seat, turning around and even scanning the balcony but exit thirteen could not be found. When Granny told me to be still I said, "But I can't find exit thirteen." Other people were shushing me as Granny told me to be quiet and she'll explain it to me later. When she did...even at my tender young age...I thought it was silly. Fifteen years later, I met a man who not only thought fearing thirteen was stupid but thought the number was lucky.
It all started after New York City's two-day blackout began on July 13, 1977. My dad lost his store in the looting and was out of work. I had just graduated Brooklyn College and was doing my best to do nothing when the ensuing family crisis, forced me into the ranks of the employed.
My friend's father headed a branch of the City University of New York (CUNY) accounting department.
|ESTABLISHED IN 1847, THE CITY UNIVERSITY SYSTEM IS COMPRISED OF 24 INSTITUTIONS THAT INCLUDE, 11 SENIOR COLLEGES AND 7 COMMUNITY COLLEGES. WITH A CURRENT BUDGET OF 2.3 BILLION DOLLARS, MORE THAN 540,000 STUDENTS ARE PRESENTLY ENROLLED.|
At work, I was embraced by the small contingent of people around my age. They called themselves the "Do-Nothing-Squad," for obvious reason. I was trained to use a simple keypunch but the newest technology was computers. So to gain computer literacy (to fit in with the clique), I disguised a lot of my work time, to "observe" older members of the do-nothings playing games, on the new, hi-tech toy.
During one of our unapproved long lunches in Central Park, I made a romantic play at the hottest of the do-nothings, Gabrielle "Gabby" Gennett, (rhymes with Bennett). She turned me down in a nice way and I was relegated to "friend" status. It turned out okay because I soon found out that she was a tramp and no stranger to a wide variety of drugs.
One Friday afternoon when we were especially doing nothing, I overheard Gabby tell the equally unmotivated office manager that from now on, she wants her last name to be pronounced Genn-NAY...so she can be at one with her French roots. Then, loud enough for the world to hear, she went into nauseating detail, describing the symptoms of her (yet another) yeast infection. Whatever embers of a torch I might have still carried for her, were hence, forever extinguished. And just in case that wasn't enough, later, minutes before we were going home, she encouraged me into the ladies room, to "toot Pam."
|PAM IS A CANOLA OIL BASED AEROSOL SPRAY THAT PREVENTS FOOD FROM STICKING TO POTS AND PANS. IT WAS INTRODUCED IN 1961 AND ITS NAME IS AN ACRONYM FOR A "PRODUCT OF ARTHUR MEYERHOFF."|
I was so out of touch that Gabby had to explain that she was going to get high off that stuff. According to her later description, you take the core from paper towels, dampen a sheet and insert it into the cylinder. Then spray some Pam into the tube and from the opposite, you suck the gas into your mouth for a cheap, temporary, tingly rush, all over your body, (I'm guessing in the last thirty-five years, they changed to a less toxic chemical composition so their product doesn't liquidate every brain cell it comes in contact with).
One afternoon at the end of the week Gabby said, "My father is picking me up, you want a ride into Brooklyn?" Anything was better than the subway so I said, "Okay."
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, her dad (Gabe) was friendly and even more of a motormouth than her. I saw his suit jacket was on a hangar as he warmly greeted me in a shirt, tie and a Pittsburgh Pirate cap. He soon made a Brooklyn joke that I was familiar with, "We live on East 13th Street, between M and N...that means I have to walk two blocks to P." I laughed, "Me too, I live on 103rd between M and N." He said, "I'll drop you off on Coney Island Avenue. You can take the B6 bus right into Canarsie."
While his daughter crashed he asked me about baseball. When he heard I was a Mets fan he said, "Good because if you were a *Junkees fan, I'd have to throw you out of my car."
*That was the first time I ever heard them called the Junkees and I have stolen that line a million times since.
He said, "When the Dodges left Brooklyn, I was heart broken." Rather than correct his mispronunciation I just said, "My dad was pissed off when the Dod-GERZ went to L. A. too" Mr. G. laughed, "I know they are the Dodgers...the name comes from being trolley car dodgers...but when I was a kid, I thought they were named after the car".
|DODGE BEGAN SELLING CARS IN 1915. IN 1928, THEY BECAME A DIVISION OF CHRYSLER AND STILL ARE TODAY. IN 1973, MY FIRST CAR (above) WAS MY DAD'S OLD, 1968 DODGE POLARA.|
Before I can get a word in Gabe continued, "It was October 13, 1960. My wife had had a traumatic pregnancy with Gabby's kid sister and we were afraid that my wife, the baby or both wouldn't survive. That morning and well into the afternoon, twelve other expectant fathers came in to that waiting room got their prize and left during the thirteen hours I sat and worried. In the end, I was the only man left and the only thing that kept me distracted enough to keep me going was watching the seventh game of the World Series."
The 1960 World Series featured the heavily favored Goliaths from New York against the surprising David-like Pirates. The teams split the first six games with the Yanks winning with three slaughters (16-3, 10-0 and 12-0) and the Pirates squeaking by with three tight victories, (6-4, 3-2 and 5-2).
The seventh game was an incredible affair complete with odd twists of fate, many lead changes and the unlikely Pirate 10-9 win, sealed by Bill Mazeroski's walk-off homer.
|BILL MAZEROSKI'S HEROICS WAS THE FIRST WALK-OFF WORLD SERIES ENDER IN BASEBALL HISTORY.|
The proud papa gaped at his daughter through glass until another nurse guided him to a desk to complete her paperwork. When Mr. G. was asked what the baby's name was, the date (October 13th) flashed through his mind, then the length of his wife's thirteen-hour labor, the number of men (thirteen) in the waiting room, the fact that the fourteenth floor was really the thirteenth and finally the amount of letters in Bill Mazeroski's name. The nurse perceived him to be in a trance and said, "Sir, are you all right?" He perplexed her by saying, "I wanted my first girl to be a boy so I named her after me...so I was going to let my wife name this baby...but under the circumstances, she not available..." The nurse said, "So..." Mr. Gennett smiled, "I want her whole name to have thirteen letters. How can I spell Mazzy that it has six letters?" The nurse shrugged, "M-A-Z-Z-I-E?"
We had just gotten off the Manhattan Bridge when I managed to tell Mr. G., "That's an amazing story." He said, "I'm not afraid of a stupid number. I love number thirteen. There's even a club called the "THIRTEEN CLUB" and they make fun of all superstitions."
Gabby's dad continued, "I never joined the club but hell, I put my money where my mouth was. The year after Mazzie was born, I moved us into a bigger house. We narrowed our choices down to three that were about the same price...but I chose the one on the thirteen hundred block of East 13th Street."
A couple of weeks later at CUNY, my juice was fired. He was replaced by the austere Bill Telford. As a result of his presence, within days, our lazy office manager suddenly became strict. She was busting tons of people in my department (mainly the do-nothings) for goofing off, coming late and eating at their desk. I paid it no mind until the rumors started swirling that thirteen people were getting axed.
On a monstrous Monday morning, someone had just nicknamed Telford, "William Tell" when his new secretary tapped our unsuspecting office manager's shoulder while she played computer solitaire. Fifteen minutes later, she was dabbing tears from her eyes as she cleared out her belongings and was escorted out.
The morale of the staff was jittery as we pantomimed activity as each succeeding victim was led to their execution. I made it until two-thirty. Telford greeted me and after some understated pleasantries, he started to read my old employment application. Aloud he said, "Ah, you're a Kingsman from good old Brooklyn College. I see here you were a Communications major." I said, "Yes sir." "Did you minor in accounting?" "Um, uh...no. I minored in Psychology." "Oh Psychology, good, good. Then how many accounting credits did you take?" I was in no position to lie so I said, "None." He said, "Okay. I see...and how many credits did you take in economics?" I said, "None...in college." His stern face had long lost any trace of graciousness when I added, "But in my sophomore year in high school, I took a requisite economics class...and got an 85."
I was falsely encouraged when William Tell didn't smite me by smashing his hatchet of doom into my back. He told me to report to the secretary in his outer office. It was she who told me I was unqualified for the job when I got my walking papers.
On my way out, I saw Gabby in the mail room. She, the greatest of the do-nothings, said she was hiding because she desperately needed the job. We gave each other a hug and exchanged phone numbers. Then I took a sheet of computer paper and said, "Let me leave you with a souvenir." I placed the blank paper on stack of manila envelopes and traced my hand with an exposed middle finger. Then I scribbled, "UP YOURS WILLIAM TELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
A few days later, Gabby called me, "I survived William Tell's reign of terror but when you look at it...it's a dead end job. So for a lot more money, I'm taking a job interview for a waitressing job at 'Good Time Charley's.'" I wished her well. Then she added, "The real reason I called was to tell you that you permanently left your mark at work." I smiled, "Really?" She said, "Really. You're a friggin' hero, a legend, a martyr..." I said, "Me?" She said, "Let me ask you, because my dad told you that he thought the number thirteen was lucky, did you purposely use thirteen exclamation points when you wrote, 'UP YOURS WILLIAM TELL !!!!!!!!!!!!!'" I said, "No." "Well, a couple of days after you left" she continued, "the manila envelope you leaned on had a bunch of handouts that Bill Telford was going to use when he chaired one of his new efficiency meetings. Then he accidentally used a sheet that had carbon paper on top of it. So when he loaded his on the overhead projector, everyone at the meeting saw your good-bye message and started to laugh."
Gabrielle Gennett (Genn-NAY) didn't know much but she had enough wisdom to recognize a dead end job when she saw it. Had I gotten stuck working for CUNY...I can't possible see how my life would have been better. So thank you William Tell. And thank you too Mr. Gabriel Gennett (rhymes with Bennett) wherever you may be, for guiding me through the nonsense of triskaidekaphobia as I hope to lead my readers through a *lucky, peaceful and love-filled...2013.
* See that you're lucky already...you can now show off to your family and friends that I taught you a twenty-nine letter word...hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia !!!!!!!!!!!!! And yes, the thirteen exclamation points were intentional.