It’s just part of our lives, we don’t even seem to notice it any more. We’ve accepted that houses have no thirteenth floor, hotels have no room thirteen and so on. But out of all the superstitions I find this the most mind-boggling.

I mean, take airliners, on which there’s no row thirteen. What kind of accident is that supposed to prevent?

‘I’m sorry but we’ve lost row thirteen, it…it just fell out of the middle of the fuselage. Oh, the rest of the plane landed fine, still what a terrible loss.’

Imagine trying to explain the whole phenomenon to an alien who’d just landed on our planet.

‘You see, this is the way we number our houses: we assign odd numbers to one side of the street and evens to the other, and we use base ten notation. So for example if this is number ten here, the house opposite would be number eleven, next to number eleven would be number fifteen because, well, because many people are afraid of the number thirteen.’

Imagine explaining all that, what would someone who had crossed millions of parsecs of deep space to visit your planet say?

It’d say: ‘Exactly which part of the sentence “Please take me to your leader” are you failing to understand?”‘


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