Friday, October 13, 2006

Locals face Friday the 13th with gusto

Express Staff Writer

It is estimated that 17 to 21 million Americans have a fear of Friday the 13th, but Dawson Paschall of Hailey said he is not among them.

Paschall, who will turn 20 on Oct. 22, said he doesn't believe Friday the 13th is unlucky, but he added that he might give pause before heading into the mountains on such a day unless he had prepared a little more thoroughly than usual.

So there's a catch. The superstition is so engrained in Western culture that people can hardly escape its magnetism. The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, N.C., estimates that $800 to $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do.

Ever the entrepreneur, Coffee Grinder owner Nicola Potts turned such study on its ear.

"I don't know, but why chance it?" she asked. "I'll do whatever I can. I put out a list of things, an 'official' list of things to do to fend off bad luck."

The list, taped to the front counter at the Ketchum coffeehouse, includes various things done by people of various cultures to ward off the undesirable outcomes of such an ill-fated day. The Romans believed grabbing hold of a phallus would seduce evil spirits away from their baneful tasks. According to Jewish tradition, throwing salt over your shoulder or spitting on your fingertips before waving them in the air will ward off bad luck.

For the rest of the list, you'll have to go to the Coffee Grinder.

According to an article in National Geographic News, fear of Friday the 13th can be traced to ancient, though separate, bad-luck associations with the number 13 and Friday. "The two unluck entities ultimately combined to make one super unluck day," according to the article.

In the Bible, Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th guest at the Last Supper. In ancient Rome, witches reportedly gathered in groups of 12. The 13th was believed to be the devil.

Moreover, the origin could have to do with the wholeness of the number 12. There are 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel and 12 apostles of Jesus.

By exceeding 12 by one, 13's association with bad luck has to do with being just a little beyond completeness. It is "restless" or "squirmy."

Um. OK.

Like Paschall, Linde Hoff of Ketchum said she doesn't believe in Friday the 13th. But she said she'll go out of her away to walk around, as opposed to under, a ladder.

You see, Hoff was born on a 13th, and so she's had a birthday or two on Friday the 13th.

"My sisters were terribly cruel when I was growing up," she said. "They called me 'spook' and 'ghoul' and witch.'

"But I don't throw salt over my shoulder or anything like that. I do knock on wood when it occurs to me and avoid stepping on cracks every now and then."

This year, she's got a new challenge to overcome. Her driver's license expires today, Friday the 13th. Yesterday she was boning up on Idaho road rules in preparation for her Friday test.

It didn't seem to bother her, but, just the same, maybe she'll avoid stepping on any cracks or under any ladders on her way into the DMV.

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