13th floor

blue tile roofOur Valencia Apartment is on the 13th floor. It’s been quite a change from our little New England farmhouse. From this high up we’ve had a nice view of all kinds of things. We’ve seen amazing sunsets. Our living room and kitchen look out in the direction of the old city, where we can see various domes, many covered in ceramic tiles of deep blue.

painting by Loquita

Loquita would say it’s TARDIS blue, but I’d have to break it to her that Valencians have been making blue tiles like this since long before–wait, I guess we can’t necessarily lay claim to a time before the TARDIS, given its status as a time machine. But we can say that Valencian blue tiles predate the police-box shape the TARDIS is currently wearing, and that by many centuries.

From up here we don’t hear much traffic noise, but that’s not all altitude–our building is on a pedestrian street, which helps a lot. We still manage to hear the evidence of a densely populated area: there are often dogs barking (remember, guau, guau), and even though we didn’t get a birth announcement, we’re quite sure that someone has a very new baby not far from here. Sometimes we hear bands playing; sometimes there are astonishingly loud concerts that go on into the wee hours. And sometimes the sound of the wind makes us wonder whether we’re going to be lifted off the ground. The outside walls of the stairwells are a series of vents, and the noise can be impressive. Overall, I’d say the 13th floor has been very pleasant for us. You might even say it’s been lucky.

13 elevator buttonNot everyone thinks that way. I read recently that less than 5% of New York City’s new high rise buildings have a 13th floor, presumably because developers are mindful of American superstitions about the number 13. Here’s your vocabulary word for the day: Triskaidekaphobia, or fear of the number 13 (personally,  I’m a bit afraid that someone might ask me how to pronounce that). It doesn’t seem like the sort of thing we really ought to be worrying about, given all the other things in the world that there are to worry about, but if you are one of the number with a fear of a number, you are not alone.

Apparently, lots of folks in Asia can’t abide the number 4, as the pronunciation of the word for 4, based on the Mandarin (四), is similar to the the sound of the word for death. Accordingly, many offices, hotels and apartments there don’t have a 4th floor. I understand that many Italians aren’t fond of the number 17, as the Roman numerals can be rearranged as VIXI, which in Latin means “I have lived,” sometimes a euphemism for “I am dead.” I’ll give a shout-out to my favorite Italian family, the Battezzatos–have you guys heard of this?

I didn’t actually find a consensus on the origins of Triskaidekaphobia. The Wikipedia entry mentions a few myths about the origin, and a few theories, but no “this is it.” In contrast, the entry had a little section on other fearsome numbers, which is where I found those short and to-the-point entries mentioned above. Maybe those brief summaries on fear of 4 and fear of 17 were easier to come by because the Wikipedia entry is in English, and it can be easier to summarize things at a remote distance or in a different culture, sort of like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. Is that because we figure that if we can’t understand it, it must not really matter, so just write a bit and be done? Or is that because, looking on from outside a culture, it’s easier to see the signal through all the noise? If I read Chinese, maybe I could go to the Wikipedia page on the fear of 4, and see if they have a pithy (and possibly inaccurate) reason for why so many English speakers shy away from the 13th floor.

If I had ever had a fear of 13, it would be over by now. Our apartment on the 13th floor has been a nice part of this very lucky chapter in our family saga. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to try to figure out how to pronounce Triskaidekaphobia.

7 thoughts on “13th floor

  1. Lori, you’re still marvelous with words. I always enjoy what you have to share. One of my favorites was the revolving wind mill.
    Keep it up, no matter where you live. I always enjoy what you have to say.

  2. I had always heard that 13 was considered unlucky because it was the number of people present at the last supper. I don’t know that that really makes sense, since it was certainly the number of people present at many other occasions where Jesus met with his apostles, but go figure.

    • That’s a really interesting idea, one that I hadn’t heard before. And I agree that it doesn’t make complete sense. It has the flavor of one of those impressive-sounding post hoc explanations that turn out to have no particular connection to the thing they purport to explain.

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