numbers aren’t just for counting!

I think we can all agree that numbers are a pretty significant part of life.  High numbers are great in terms of book sales or SAT scores and high numbers are bad when comparing prices or measuring our weight (unless you actually need to gain a few pounds in which case, stop reading this and EAT SOMETHING). Numbers are the bread and butter for accountants, actuaries and engineers and the bain of existence for those of us who struggle in math.  But besides a mathematical object used to count and measure, a number often has significance to people on an emotional level.  Case in point: 

11 – Many people, including myself, associate 11:11 with good luck and if they happen to glance at the clock and see it is 11:11, they will make a wish.  To others, the number 11 immediately brings to mind the horrific events of 9/11/2001.  And of course, there is the 7-Eleven convenience store if you need a quick 12 pack of beer, a slushy, some chips and dip or, if you are brave and have a stomach of steel like my friend Anne, a hot dog.

23 – this is the date of my birthday and so, naturally, I associate it with good things.  And whenever I look at the clock and notice it is 12:23, I think to myself, or sometimes out loud, “it’s my birthday!”  I do that with 12:25 as well – “It’s Christmas!” even though I’m Jewish and Santa doesn’t really care if I’m naughty or nice.

13 – an interesting number, associated with bad luck to many, especially when it falls on a Friday.  Some buildings do not have a 13th floor, choosing to go directly from 12 to 14.  In the Jewish religion however, 13 symbolizes the principles of faith and God’s mercy.  It is also the year a boy becomes a man.  The age 13 marks the end of childhood and the beginning of the teenage years.  An exciting time for kids; a scary time for parents.  13 is a baker’s dozen and when you order a dozen bagels, you actually get 13! And for Yankee fans, the number 13 corresponds to the number worn by Alex Rodriguez (A-rod).  Whether we respect him as a person or not, most of us can admit he is a damn good ball player. 

3 – this is the number of driver’s tests I had to take before I got my license. (The license I inadvertently allowed to expire – subject of a whole other blog.)  It is also the number of children in my house growing up – I’m the youngest of 3 girls.  My childhood home was 3 Eldorado Drive. 3 is the number of stars I’ll give when reviewing a restaurant or book I enjoyed but didn’t LOVE.  3 Strikes in baseball can be good or bad depending on whose team is at bat.  Girls often use the phrase “3 strikes and your out” when giving a boyfriend a warning that he’s skating on thin ice.  A three-some (ménage a trois) is considered hot by many, weird by some and just a typical Saturday night for others. 

21 – for kids, this is the age of all ages – it’s legal to drink!  No more fake i.d.s, no more nervously asking strangers to buy beer for you outside of the aforementioned Seven-11, no more freaking out, fearing a bar raid when a cop car happens to pass your college bar and you know your sister will kill you if her license gets torn up.  And also the last birthday you’ll likely look forward to rather than dread.  Yankee great Paul O’Neill wore the number 21.  When playing Blackjack, the goal is to come as close to a 21 as possible without busting.  I can’t think of anything bad about the number 21. 

1 – The number 1 can be identified with many things.  It can signify new beginnings and a fresh start, for example, a first day of work, the 1st inning at a baseball game, a first date, kiss etc.  When running a marathon, I imagine that passing the 1st mile mark is just an annoying reminder that you have 25 more miles to go.  I’ve heard the phrase, “it only takes one” more times than I can count whether referring to the love of my life, an offer for representation by an agent, or a publishing contract.  Being number 1 is a good thing when your a contestant in a contest, next on line, or it’s your high school ranking, but being a “1” is totally undesirable when ranked on a scale of 1-10.  And a 1 star review is always a bad thing…

16 – Most identify the number 16 with the age one is allowed to drive.  Similar to 13, this is an exciting age to be a kid, a terrifying time to be his/her parents.  The phrase “sweet sixteen” holds significance to many young women and her parents.  To me, it calls to mind parties every weekend dancing to Meatloafs “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” and Don MClean’s “American Pie” and wondering if anyone will ask me to slow dance or if I should conveniently go to the bathroom to powder my nose when the DJ plays Gloria Estefan’s “Anything for you.”  And, finally, no girl wants be “Sweet 16 and never been kissed.” 

I think I’ve proven my point that numbers are more than just characters on a calculator or things to be manipulated in a mathematical equation.  But what about you?  What numbers do you play in Lotto?  Do you have a lucky number or a number that gives you the hebegebees?    


  1. Jeff Salter on April 26, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    Well, I don’t play Lotto. And don’t notice numbers all that much.
    I do sometimes think of dates, however, as in years particular things happened. Like 1492, when Columbus landed in the new world; 1620, when the Pilgrims landed here; 1918, when WW1 ended; 1939, when WW2 began. Stuff like that. I used to know other dates like the Norman Invasion of Britain, but that one’s already forgotten unless it’s 1066.
    But as far as umbers themselves, I think of ‘3’ and ‘7’ a lot. Both have Biblical bases as well as superstitious bases.
    The only number that ‘scares’ me is 666, for reasons you probably realize.

  2. Meredith on April 27, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I never really gave numbers much thought either. I just happened to notice that I glance at my watch/clock/treadmill at the 12:23 mark often and always note that it’s my birthday. Kind of silly but it inspired this post!

    Thanks for commenting, Jeff. And stay away from the 666!

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