You Must Fear September the 13th, Not Friday

Why are so many Americans so scared of today, when what they should really be scared of is ... today?
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(PHOTO: ZTIJ0/FLICKR)

(PHOTO: ZTIJ0/FLICKR)

Today is Friday. It is also the 13th day of the month, which means that you may or may not be reading this from inside a hyperbaric nuclear fallout shelter filled with pure oxygen, no sharp edges or hard surfaces, safe from the impending savagery to be inflicted on your hometown by the nearest-by pack of feral black cats. But guess what—you’re reading this on a computer or a phone or a tablet, which could just as easily explode because technology just can’t be trusted on a day like this, if ever.

If you’re still reading—which, why?—enough Americans (estimates range from 17 to 21 million, creating business losses estimated to be around $800 or $900 million) fear Friday the 13th for it to be labeled as a real, actual phobia. Why? That’s not totally clear, as there are random examples throughout history of weird people associating weird things with this arbitrary day, but for whatever reason, it stuck. And it continues to perpetuate itself with each passing Friday the 13th:

Psychologists point to the fact that if anything negative happens on that specific date, people make a permanent association between the event and the date in their minds, conveniently forgetting all those times Friday the 13th has passed uneventfully. In short, it is a classic example of confirmation bias.

But it’s really not that bad!

The number of "notable people" who died on Friday the 13th is actually pretty tiny. (R.I.P. Tupac, Julia Child.) The number of people who’ve died on September the 13th, though, well, shit.

Just to name a few: an Ethiopian emperor, a governor of Rhode Island, a French prime minister, an elephant, Walt Disney’s dad, a governor of Texas, a president of Colombia, a bunch of soccer players, at least one porn star, some actresses, a Nobel Prize laureate, and on and on. Multiple wars—the Revolutionary, the Civil, the Mexican-American, World's I and II—have taken place on September 13, in addition to multiple railroad accidents, and multiple non-war-related mass deaths.

So, if your fear of the overpowering mundanity and general helplessness of life is extra-crippling today, please make sure it’s for the right reasons. Not because it’s Friday, but just because it’s September.

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