William McInnes
William McInnes

My bizarre phobia of the number 87

NUMBERS are tools of communicating, tabulating and calculating human interaction and making sense of existence. They're the hard stones of scientific theory and understanding. Sums either add up or don't, a rueful fact understood thoroughly by the recent succession of Australian prime ministers. But when people become involved with numbers, these hard stones of science can be distorted to defy all form of logic and reason by the quirks of being a human being.

Lucky and unlucky numbers. It makes no sense at all really but it'll never stop people having good and bad numbers.

Seven has always been thought to be a lucky number across many faiths and cultures, in Christian terms God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, so a day off is always a fair enough basis of good fortune.

Apparently, there are a seven heavens in both Judaism and the Koran and in Confucianism, 7 represents the Yin and Yang combined with the five elements.

Sometimes different cultures have different views of numbers, I was leery of 8 because of its ominous pool connotations, as in being "behind the 8 ball". In China though, 8 is an omen of wealth and so is considered lucky.

Sometimes numbers have a more personal reason for existing in the fortune basket. When I was at uni I had a part-time job as a spotter in a bingo hall where an old lady always got a bit excited if she saw the 37 on her bingo sheet. I asked her why, and she said, "Oh love, I won the Christmas jackpot once, and 37 was the last number called. I'll never get tired of seeing that beautiful 37!"

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181013 MCINNES RGB.jpg

An old coot who was an ex-maths teacher and scorer at a cricket club I played for hated any binary number, calling them, "A cackhander's curse."

I was very fond of 63 because it was the answer to the multiplication table 9 times 7 asked by a primary school teacher of mine who couldn't quite believe I came up with the answer.

Neither could I, blind luck.

But when it comes to true idiocy, nothing comes close to 87 being the "Devil's Number". concerning all matters cricket in Australia. It's unlucky because it's 13 away from 100, and 13 is top shelf unlucky - its bad luck origins are multiple, but the most common is 13 is the number who attended the Last Supper, where Christ was betrayed by Judas Iscariot.

I buy into 87 jitters completely and anytime I see or hear the number I try and move on as quickly as possible.

Even to the extent at supermarket check-outs where, if the number appears in the cost, I'll quickly grab something else to add to the bill, thus escaping the dreaded number. But there is nothing like a true artist when it comes to embracing the 87 superstition, like my grand mate PB.

He has a list of cricketing disasters all grounded in 87, including the startling admission that because of these disasters his worth as a cricketer was never acknowledged.

This is a bit of a stretch because PB was a yeoman-like trundler as a bowler and as a bat, his nudging/nurdling technique was reminiscent of some old stop-motion footage from a nature doco of some strange creature engaging in a courting ritual.

But no, over a few jars of his home brew he ran through a litany of "87" misfortunes.

Wandering off after a golden duck he pondered how a batsman of his calibre could be dismissed so cheaply and when he checked his watch the time was 11.27am. Of course; exactly 87 minutes after the start of play.

After another bewildering dismissal he worked out the temperature was just over 30 degrees Celcius - or 87 degrees in the old money. Unluckily bowled middle stump to a veteran offie, who wore an eyepatch no less, PB noted the score was 3 for 29, and that 3 times 29 is 87. Not convinced?

Neither was I.

I challenged PB to come up with a connection between the ball tampering saga and 87.

He smiled. " Steve Smith was banned for 12 months on March 28th."

"So?" I asked.

"The 87th day of the year."

See? People and numbers. Might have been the home brew but he almost had me believing.

William McInnes is an actor and comedian