As the Olympics got underway Friday, every media outlet made a point of noting that the Chinese had specifically chosen 8/8/08 as the date for the Opening Ceremonies because it would be good luck.
In Chinese culture, the number 8 is supposedly magical — simply having it in your house number or address means prosperity. A Chinese citizen once paid over $270,000 to buy the right to use the phone number 8888-8888.
It’s all superstitious nonsense, and it’s about time someone said so. To quote statistician Chip Denman, “Luck is probability taken personally.”
When the MGM Grand opened in Las Vegas, they used the lion from their famous logo as the entranceway. You would walk through the lion’s mouth to enter the casino from The Strip. After being in business for a few months, management noticed that they weren’t getting as many Asian gamblers as the other casinos nearby. It turned out that, in many Asian cultures, walking into the mouth of a lion was “bad luck,” so they avoided the place like the plague. At a cost of millions, MGM rebuilt the entrance, removing the giant lion mouth. Soon, the MGM had its share of Asian gamblers.
If only someone had taken them aside and pointed out that they were still losing at the tables and slot machines just like everywhere else in town, despite entering through a luckier doorway. I doubt many of them became rich by betting on the number 8.
I’m not laying all of this at the non-eight-toed feet of the Chinese. Here in the US Friday, news people at hospitals reported “lucky” babies being born, including many who were induced or mothers who had c-sections so the child would have a “lucky” birthday.
Unfortunately, none of the media outlets that report this garbage ever goes back to check and see if it leads to anything. Was Thursday an unlucky day? How about today?
In a nation that boasts 20% of the world’s population, I’m sure that on Friday there were plenty of Chinese people who were injured, got fired, went hungry, broke up with their boyfriends, got divorced, lost their keys, missed their train, got a flat tire, stubbed their toe, failed an exam, or even died — all on their “luckiest day of the year.”
The numbers on the calendar had no relation to the reality of their lives, but being skeptical and reasonable doesn’t make as good a story as the tens of thousands of couples that chose 8/8/08 as their wedding day.
It’s this half-cocked media mentality that continues to breed superstitious flummery everywhere. What’s the last time you were in a building with a 13th floor? From the signs on the doors to the buttons in the elevator, the number 13 is missing. If the building was more than a dozen stories high, then it must have had a 13th floor, but it’s unlikely anyone acknowledged it.
If 8 is lucky and 13 is unlucky, let’s see a study conducted to see if all the businesses on the 8th floor of a building were more successful than those on the 13th floor. Then try it with those numbers in an address. Then compare the lives of children born on those respective days.
Then remember that dates are arbitrary contrivances, depending on where you are and who set up the calendar. In fact, in China, this is the year 4706.
Funny, not an 8 in sight.