One score and two years ago, an arguably sane friend asked me absurdly: What had I been doing at four seconds before 12:35 a.m. the previous Sunday?
As I struggled to recall what transgression I may have committed beyond snoring, he interrupted my thoughts with a long string of digits.
Did I realize, he asked, that the time would have been 12:34:56 on 7-8-90? Could I see the beauty in that 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-0?
I hadn't noticed that, but I promised to be more attentive when this came up again the next century.
Time marched on, as it will whether we like it or not, until one Ray DeVries emailed me to tell me about his upcoming 66th birthday.
That will be on Dec. 12, or 12-12-12.
"The numerology of that should appeal to you,'' Mr. DeVries wrote. "What would it take to find everybody born on Dec. 12, 1946, and get them all in one room to swap stories?
Everybody? Well, even if we limited the invitation list to one hemisphere, that would take a bigger room than I'd care to put a deposit on.
Another man might have dropped the matter of Dec. 12 at that point, but the string of twelves that awaits Mr. DeVries stayed with me. I wondered why he wanted to meet only people born on the same exact day. What of the kids born on Dec. 12, 2000, who'll be turning 12 on 12-12-12? (No birthday cake for them this year; only four dozen Krispy Kremes will do.)
Unless someone comes up with a 13th month, stat, this is the last year we'll have any date like this until Jan 1, 2101. That's when 1-1-01 comes up, and that doesn't have nearly the symmetry of 12-12-12. Last year's 11-11-11 was even better, of course, not least because it was International Nigel Tufnel Day, in honor of the iconic dimwit from "This Is Spinal Tap" whose guitar amplifier went up to 11. But I digress.
What is it about numbers that attract us so? The Post-Gazette had a story last week about a wedding in Pine that was held on a Thursday because the date, 10-11-12, seemed like a winner. (Suggested gifts in the wedding registry? Lottery tickets, I'm guessing.) Pat Gibbons, director of Heinz Chapel, where another 10-11-12 wedding was held, said, "We have noticed more people asking for funny dates.''
That reminds me of a funny date I had once, a blind one in my 20s. A nice enough woman, but I could tell from the moment I came to her door that I looked a lot more like Ichabod Crane than she expected. We did the movies/ice cream thing and then, when I took her home, she said she had to walk the dog. So we did. Then at that do-I-kiss-her-or-not moment on the doorstep, she picked the mutt up and said good night with Fido shoulder high.
I took the hint, said good night, and walked away. Still wish I had the presence of mind to kiss that dog, though.
Getting back to the numbers, I guess I'm drawn to them because I grew up in a house where another string of digits was family legend. My younger brother, the Incredible Dullboy, was born in Queens, N.Y., on Aug. 8, 1958 -- the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year. Not all that big a deal, but my brother also weighed eight pounds, eight ounces -- and this is about the time somebody should cue the organ music.
The family story always was that my father then bet eight bucks on the eighth horse in the eighth race at Aqueduct, and you can probably guess what happened next.
Came in eighth.
OK, that horse race bit isn't true, but the rest is. You can check the records in Flushing Hospital (an unfortunate name for a springboard into life, that). It should be filed under Dullboy, Incredible.
In any case, in a couple of months, we should done with quirky dates for this century. If I'm wrong, and someday you find yourself reading about a 13-13-13 anniversary, blame the Mayans.
Brian O'Neill: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1947.