Friggatriskaidekaphobia is the fear of Friday the Thirteenth. I am superstitious but I widely believe that Friday the Thirteenth is an invention of the movie industry. It does not exist. Therefore, I don’t believe that Friday the Thirteenth is a day of bad luck.
Last Friday morning, I woke up to the first cool and overcast morning we have had in weeks. The Piedmont has been ravaged by a heat wave that has brought unusually high temperatures, so to wake up and find the mercury hovering around seventy-eight was a welcomed sight. I had been neglecting the grass and the jungle that has been growing up around our house needed to be cut down to size. Cooler temperatures meant that I could finally mow the lawn.
I went into the garage and pulled out my lawnmower. When I went to fill the lawn mower with gas, I realized my gas can was empty. Frustrated, I trudged back into the house for my car keys and I was off to the local filling station. As I stepped up to the counter to pay for a gallon of gasoline, the attendant said, “Watch out, it’s Friday the 13th!”
I hadn’t had my coffee yet and I wasn’t in the mood to debate the merits of melodramatic invention. Friday the 13th is a movie, not a thing, not a real day of devilish acts or something to be feared. It is a movie. So I made some mocking comment about the superstition as I headed out the door and back to my car.
After I filled up the lawnmower with gasoline, I put my IPod in my tee shirt pocket and placed the earphones over my shoulder. I pulled the ripcord and as my lawnmower coughed at me in response, a combination of white and black smoke shot out of the exhaust system.
I topped off the lawnmower with oil and I pulled the ripcord again. This time the lawnmower fired right up. So I put my earphones in my ears and hit the shuffle button on the IPod. The first song to start playing was Darius Rucker’s “I Hope They Get To Me In Time” which is a song about a guy who is trapped in his car just after an accident while he hears sirens rushing to his aid. Good song but a little morose for first thing in the morning. But I sang along to it anyway.
I turned up the volume on my IPod and started to mow the lawn. It was slow going at first because I had waited too long and the grass had grown very high. So I broke the lawn into smaller manageable sections. After one section of particularly longer grass, I took the bag off the back of the mower and walked it over to the yard waste container. When I came back to the mower and tried to start it again, nothing happened.
I tried to pull the ripcord a few more times and still, nothing happened. The mower didn’t even cough like it had earlier. It did nothing. It was dead. So I checked the gasoline but the tank was half full. I knew the oil was fine because I had just topped it off. As I knelt down to look at the engine, I noticed the cap for the spark plug had come undone. I was perplexed. I have never seen a spark plug cover become disengaged all by itself and since I was the only one home, it struck me as truly odd.
I reconnected the spark plug cap and started the lawn mower. As I was ambling along the yard and listening to my music, I could feel the sun started to warm up the back of my neck. “Damn,” I thought. The clouds were starting to break. I knew it would be a matter of time before the heat would return and sun would start barring down on me. I had to pick up the pace. So I turned the corner and started to move a little bit more quickly when all of a sudden, “AAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”
A moment later, I was sitting on the ground with my hand still engaged on the lawn mower. I let go of the hand grip which turned off the engine as I started to feel a shooting pain up the left side of my leg and as I turned to look, my left leg was gone!
I placed my hands on the ground and pushed up to help free my leg. I started crawling toward the street as the pain in my left knee intensified. My neighbor, who was getting ready to leave for a long weekend, asked if I was okay. And after a quick check of all my extremities, I was. I was a little sore but nothing was broken.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I don’t know. One minute I am mowing the lawn and the next moment, my left leg is gone and I am sitting on the ground.”
“Really,” I said as we walked over to where the lawnmower quietly sat in the yard. There in the middle of the yard was a hole; a sink hole! Where did that come from?!
My neighbor and I inspected the sink hole for a few minutes. I had unearthed a large underground cavern just beneath my lawn. I called the town and over the next few hours, two separate teams came out to inspect the property. Apparently, the water run off pipe that keeps our neighborhood from flooding was leaking. One of the teams suspected that with every storm we must have lost a wheelbarrow full of dirt and over time a big cavern had developed. I just happened to step on the weakest point and fell right through.
As I was talking to my wife about everything that happened on Friday, I was glad that it was me and not one of the kids who found the sink hole. When I thought about all of the random connections that happened that day (no gas, no oil, the Darius Rucker warning on the IPod and the disengaged spark plug), I guess fate was trying to tell me to steer clear of the sink hole. I just didn’t listen and the rest is history.
I still do not believe in all of the hocus pocus associated with the folklore of Friday the Thirteenth. It is a cinematic feature, not a real apocalyptic aura of the underworld. I do not have Friggatriskaidekaphobia. But rest assured, the next time Friday the thirteenth happens you can bet that I will not mock it and tempt my fate. I’ve already seen what that can do.