Opinion Column

The real world impact of silly ‘stupidstitions’

By Chris Campbell, 24 hours

In some apartment buildings, you won’t find this button — or the number 13.
GETTY IMAGES

In some apartment buildings, you won’t find this button — or the number 13. GETTY IMAGES

A funny thing happened when I went to pick up a friend from night school recently. We got our wires crossed and she didn’t actually need a ride home so I just followed her as we headed to a nearby coffee shop.

 

It just took a long time to get there. That’s because instead of taking the direct route, she took a long detour — so she wouldn’t have to drive by the Burnaby cemetery.

Me being impatient, I fumed as she explained that some Chinese people steer clear of cemeteries because it’s bad luck.

I shook my head and searched for a sarcastic jab until I looked at my shoes. Then I remembered that I always — always! — put my right shoe on first — ever since I was a kid playing baseball and went on a ridiculous hitting streak that gets longer every time I tell the story to anyone trapped into listening.

Basically, my coach told me to keep doing whatever I was doing to make myself feel comfortable enough to keep hitting. When the streak broke, I swore it was because I had put on my left shoe first. I’ve been right-shoeing it ever since.

I don’t know if that qualifies as a “superstition.” Or the fact that I believe that if I tell the reporters in the newsroom that it looks like the newspaper will be done early, I’ve jinxed them and it will finish late. Thoughts are thoughts and nobody can convinced me otherwise.

Some call them “stupidstitions” and most of us have at least one, but some superstitions have bigger impacts than simply not walking on a sidewalk crack.

For instance, my apartment building has no number 4 or 13 listed on the elevator panel. The “13” superstition I know (my brother was born on Friday the 13th and is named Jason, after all), but the “4” I had to look up.

It’s called “tetraphobia” and stems from the pronunciation of the number 4 being similar to the word for death in several Chinese dialects. A 2013 UBC study called Superstition in the Housing Market found that homes with an address ending in 4 sold at a 2.2% discount, while those ending in 8 (connected to prosperity, according to the study) sold at a 2.5% premium in North American areas with a large immigrant population.

The study authors warned of predatory real estate agents taking advantage of immigrants by playing up superstitions.

The elevator issue has become so pervasive that some cities — urged on by police and firefighters — have passed bylaws ensuring new apartment buildings include numbers in the proper order.

Personally, I sometimes feel like a slave to my superstitions. I want to go left-foot-first one day and see what happens. I want to watch the Canucks without feeling I’m dooming them just by tuning in.

Until that day, as Stevie Wonder sang, “When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer.”

Feel free to share you superstitions at ccampbell@postmedia.com or @Shinebox44.

Chris Campbell is managing editor of 24 hours. 

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