The Left and Right of Friday the 13th

Does triskaidekaphobia influence your profession? The fear of the number 13 is associated with bad luck in western cultures attributed to those employing the lunar-solar calendars. In Greek and Norse mythology the number 12 symbolizes completeness. Architects in their elevator numbering sequence of avoiding floor 13 to urban planners avoiding the number 13 in street signage are just two examples of professional superstitions. But these apparently are to appease the right-brainer (creative) population. My research on the subject has shown that the more left-brain (analytical) the less superstitious. Superstitions are not based on the rationale and practical thought used by left-brainers architects, engineers, and surveyors.

For a select, more optimistic person the number 13 has good connotations. Country music star Taylor Swift considers her Friday the 13th birthday in December 1989 so lucky she has won every major award in the 13th seat, or 13th row or 13th section. But then Dan Marino #13 never won a Super Bowl. President Herbert Hoover avoided gatherings of 13 while he was in the White House. President Franklin D. Roosevelt often called upon his personal secretary to be the 14th guest at White House dinner parties to avoid the dreaded number 13. Architects, however, are on the cusp of both analytical and creative. John Russo, CEO, Architectural Resource Consultants (ARC) says, There always seems to be a story of someone who died within the premises of old buildings we document and the new wildlife inhabitants that occupy the building can magnify stories.My crews realize early on of the history and the effect it can have alone in a dark building.

Jody J. Lounsbury, PLS, Section Manager of 3D Laser Scanning with Clough Harbour & Associates says there have been a few quirky occurrences while laying out scan positions, but there isnt a superstition formula he follows. Rich Barry, Chief Engineer at Crazy Horse and Mt Rushmore says, I probably do not have any, at least that I am aware of. Although, in the world of bidding on and executing survey jobs, I can see how people might develop them over time. The surveyors and presidents Barry is most familiar with at Mt Rushmore are Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson. In fact, Jefferson is quoted to denounce the role of superstition.

"I have examined all the known superstitions of the world and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology. Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites; to support roguery and error all over the earth."

Thomas Jefferson

Friday the 13th doesnt mean, we should all just close up shop for the day! Although not pinned to one catastrophe, the superstition can be attributed to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the late 14th century, or the association with the number of people at the Last Supper. The Crucifixion took place on a Friday, thus leading to an association of bad luck with the combination of this number and day. DanBrown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code is a modern-day invention. While there does not appear to be hard evidence to support the claim, it has been suggested that $800 to $900 million are lost each Friday the 13th (Roach 2004) as a result of people avoiding travel, wedding plans, moving, and so on.

I guess it is just unlucky to be superstitious.

Test your right-brain left brain superstitions

Roach, J. "Friday the 13th Phobia Rooted in Ancient History." National Geographic News. Aug.12, 2004.

About the Author

Cyn René Whitfield

Cyn René Whitfield. Cyn has a master's degree in managerial business communications and is a nationally published journalist who has been involved in marketing for land surveying and laser scanning companies since 1983. She is currently the Business Development Coordinator for TREKK Design Group a D/WBE full-service civil engineering design and consulting firm headquartered in Kansas City, Mo.
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