A Number of Things



Photo by alice10 @ Morguefile.com

What’s this? A post on Election Day that isn’t political? Don’t fret, there will be one tomorrow once the results are in! In the meantime, however, I will leave you with a somewhat humorous and interesting anecdote. I decided to get this out of the way before I chug on my doubleshot Espresso and hunker down in order to crank out words for NaNoWriMo. Luckily, I am four days ahead, so this is not something that requires urgency.


Let’s talk about numbers. Numbers are fun stuff. No, you don’t need to be a math major to enjoy this post, there’s something for everyone here!

When I was getting back into exercise, I decided to go with swimming. However, I quickly ran into the issue of where I was going to place my stuff. While lockers are not reserved, I did enjoy the notion of having a specific locker that I could reliably put my stuff in.

Fortunately, I was able to do it. There was a specific number that I could consistently go to. It was always available, and I never had to worry about it getting taken. Even better, it was within close proximity to the pool. However, there was just one problem…

That locker was #69. Yep, 69. I’ll be the first admit, I had specific connotations going through my mind when I picked it. But after the initial mental snickering wore off, I quickly discovered that it was actually a good choice in terms of locker availability.

I postulate that it’s because everyone has that specific connotation in their mind, and want to distance themselves from that. So, no one picks locker #69. If someone else asks why you picked that locker, you’ve got an awkward story to tell.

This is an interesting phenomenon, where people attach significance to specific numbers. For example, rolling a seven is considered lucky in gambling. I found out later that it was because there are more ways to reach seven than any other combination of numbers on two six-sided dice.

I also recall ordering ice cream with my father when I was living in Pennsylvania. The order always came out to $6.66. Alas, no hellspawn came upon us though.

It also differs by culture. When I was learning Japanese, I learned that there are two ways of saying the number four. The first, shi, is the same as the word “death”. Most of the time, we used “yon” in its place. The same can be applied for the number nine, or “ku”. It shares its linguistic roots with the word for “suffering”. These are further elaborated when using combinations of numbers. Apparently, maternity wards in Japan sometimes don’t have rooms numbered with 43, because 43 is close to “shisan” or “stillbirth”. That’d be an awkward situation, admittedly.

I also think about numbers that I use in daily life. I tend to use the number three in order to establish if something is a pattern or not. I have used the number 1,000,001 before as a literary device, as well as the number seven, and for my latest book I’ll be using 100.

So, I am going to open this discussion up to others. What numbers do you use in your life and do they mean anything to you? I’d be interested in hearing the stories!