DIANE PHILLIPS: It’s not a number we should be afraid of but we’re selling ourselves short


Diane Phillips

If Friday is supposed to be the most eagerly anticipated day of the week - a tease to the excitement of the upcoming weekend - why is it that at least once every year it is saddled with being a 13th? And wouldn’t you just know it – in 2020, the year we cannot wait to wave goodbye to – we got a double dose of misfortune with two Friday the 13ths, today being the second.

Some say Friday the 13th is no big deal. Just a bunch of superstitious nonsense made up by supercilious people who want us to be afraid of the number 13. Supercilious or not, it’s working.

Why is there no 13th floor in hotels? Of course, there really is a 13th floor in a building of that size. It’s just called the 14th. If it’s all a bunch of hoo-hah, why do most airlines not have a Row 13 in their aircraft, instead jumping their seating arrangements from row 12 to row 14?

It is true that a lot of bad things have happened on a Friday the 13th. Take for example the luxury cruise ship the Costa Concordia off Italy which took the lives of 32 passengers and crew when it ran aground and sank on January 13, 2012, a Friday.

Ironically, Italy is one of only two countries in western culture, the other being Brazil, who do not recognize the number 13 as unlucky and prefer instead to fear the number 17. In China, the number 14, which represents death, sends shivers and shudders down to Kung fu shoes.

We could easily argue that a lot of bad things fall on any given day of the week matched with any given day of the calendar. We don’t hold it against Sunday the 17th that last November the first case of coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China.

And you have to give credit where economic benefits accrue. Friday the 13th is like a mid-size business, generating a secret society, a famous book and even more famous movie franchise series which continues to hold its own as the second highest-grossing horror franchise in cinema history.

But let’s get real. If we want something to fear, it is not a day of the week we should be scared of but what is happening to us as a people. We are afraid to hug. Everyone could be carrying something that could kill us. We are acting like a bunch of chipmunks, shopping like the store we are in at this very moment is going to close for good tomorrow and we will never be able to buy toilet paper or toothpaste again.

Look at what is happening and be honest. We are half-excited about weekend freedom and half-afraid. It will feel so good to wiggle our toes in the sand and squiggle them like we used to, or dip our feet in the water, but we will do so looking over our shoulder in case a germ we can’t see is lurking in the shadows.

Look at us. We have learned that during those long lockdown days, it is okay to clean out our closets and give away clothes we haven’t worn for years or tear through kitchen cabinets and find spices that deserve to be the object of scientific study.

Look at who we are becoming. We know that students need to be back in the classroom with staggered days and hours as soon as possible in a blended learning environment yet we secretly relish the lack of traffic clogging the roads in the morning.

Look at what we are taking without rising up and fighting back. Look how passive we have become, getting that sick, sinking feeling in our stomach that no matter what we do we will not be able to stop the oil drilling in our waters and accepting the fact that we still do not have a Freedom of Information Act that could shed light on how this deal was struck and all it entails.

Look around us and understand. It is not Friday the 13th we should be afraid of. It is ourselves and what we are becoming. Even if we beat COVID-19, will it have beaten us along the way?

Potcake, oh Potcake, where are you?

Ten days ago, I got a message that Potcake, Nassau’s famed street philosopher, stopped by to let me know he was no longer homeless. Someone had started a gofundme page for him and raised enough money for him to have a roof over his head.

No longer would he sleep in doorways to get out of the rain or on top of the wall by St Matthew’s to enjoy the shade. No longer would the jangle of his hubcaps on the side of his cart be the only music he hears day after long day and night after even longer night.

Potcake wanted to assure me he was okay after I mentioned him in a column. He left his cell number and mentioned he could use a few pieces of furniture if I had anything I did not need, knowing that Oasis indoor and outdoor furniture is a family business run by our daughter whose travel history to source the pieces he recited to her, right down to her riding camel and donkey during different trips.

Potcake, if you are reading this as you usually do, this message is for you. Please turn on your phone or stop by. My family and your friends want to make sure you have everything you need to keep you warm and cozy in your new home.

Lord knows, you have given us enough pleasure in your cardboard-slung musings to warrant a little love and attention from the public in return.


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