Irrational Encounters With The Modern World


What’s In A Number?

I’m writing this because I don’t like the number thirteen. I’m not scared of it, or by it, I just don’t like it – it is an ugly number.

This is pretty irrational – how can a number be ugly, or aesthetically pleasing? I don’t know, but I do know that I like numbers that are multiples of 5. I can’t have the TV or the stereo volume set to an odd number, with the exception of eleven – the level at which the stereo gets set at night when it is too late for twelve (or higher) but too early for the winding-down levels of eight or nine. Eleven and nine are the only acceptable odd numbers for the stereo volume to sit at, and only late at night or early in the morning when I don’t want to disturb my neighbours. I wish they showed me the same consideration.

Anyway, my point in writing this is, I can’t have the number of blogs posted sitting at thirteen – so this will be the fourteenth.

When I studied Psychology, for one year as part of a degree I later dropped out of, we discussed phobias. Our lecturer was a funny guy, who would anthropomorphise animals when telling us of practical experiments and tests, and he made the classes hugely entertaining by telling us, for example, how you can make pigeons superstitious. To listen to him, his style was comparable to Eddie Izzard’s, so his classes were informative, interesting, and often hilarious.

This particular day, we were all encouraged to shout out things people might be scared of, which he then listed on an overhead projector. Someone said spiders, so he drew a crude one, then a thread coming from it leading up and off the sheet of acetate. He positioned the sheet in such a way that, when he pulled it towards him on the projector, it looked like the spider was animated and descending from the top of the screen. Simple, but quite funny. “Vertigo,” someone else shouted, and he asked if they were okay sitting at the top of the lecture hall, or if they wanted to come down the front to a seat at floor level.

In amongst the list of other fears, the number thirteen inevitably cropped up. He started to write this down, but in a deliberate gesture he stopped, rubbed it out, and wrote instead “12 + 1” – just in case anyone was scared of seeing it written down.

The really stupid thing though, given that I don’t like the number thirteen, is that it was the street number of the house I grew up in. I lived at number thirteen for twenty-three years, and I still have family living there.

Like I said, irrational.