Saturday, July 7, 2007

Lucky Numbers

So, did you get lucky today?

As you probably heard, lots of people are seeing special significance in the fact that the date today is 7/7/07, or for the purist, 7/7/7. It's an especially big day for the wedding industry, as the following report from the Washington Post, dated June 30, describes:

Lucky in Love? Couples Book 7/7/07 Weddings
Reservations Are Up For Auspicious Day

By Kendra Marr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 30, 2007; A01

It's unclear whether July 7, 2007, will be the luckiest wedding day of the century, but it will certainly be one of the busiest this year.

Hotels, wedding planners, caterers, florists and bakers are scrambling to accommodate the flood of couples rushing to the altar on 7/7/07. They're juggling more events than usual. Some are hiring extra help. Old hands say the crush will exceed the number of millennium marriages or those celebrated on a typical Valentine's Day.

There are no official numbers for this day. But one indicator is, a popular wedding Web site. More than 38,000 couples in's registry are planning to wed next Saturday -- more than triple the average number of couples that signed up to marry on Saturdays in July 2006, said Christa Vagnozzi, a senior editor.

The date is popular for many reasons, as seven is considered an auspicious number in a variety of cultures.

"It's a little extra luck for a happy, long marriage. Any little bit helps," said Deepak Baskaran, 30, of Baltimore, who will be getting married next Saturday in the District. "Plus I'll never forget that anniversary date, or I'll be in big trouble."

In the Orthodox Jewish tradition, the bride circles the groom seven times when she arrives at the chuppah, a canopy used in weddings, symbolizing in part the seven days of creation. Seven candles are lit during Kwanzaa. There are seven wonders of the world. The Big Dipper is formed from seven stars. Buddha is said to have walked seven steps upon his birth. The Islamic tradition involves seven levels of heaven. The ancient city of Rome was said to be built on seven hills. There are seven deadly sins, as well as virtues, in some Christian traditions. And gamblers hit the jackpot with the slot machine combination 7-7-7.

Triple sevens simply amplify the numerological meaning for those tying the knot.

Brides and grooms snatched up wedding venues more than a year in advance. Richard Markel, director of the Association for Wedding Professionals International, did a survey of 2,000 hotels and wedding facilities and discovered that 75 percent were already reserved by December for 7/7/07.

"The good news is that nobody raised their prices," Markel said. "They really didn't expect it."

One wedding planner managed to persuade a bride to get married seven minutes after midnight when she couldn't book the triple sevens.

"There were a lot of brides who actually started looking to buy the date from other brides," Markel said.

Las Vegas, the land of economical and impromptu weddings, is particularly hectic. Travel Web site is booking about six times as many hotel rooms as normal for that weekend. Some hotels and casinos are touting "lucky" deals, such as a chance to win a $777 meal and a mass wedding at 7 p.m.

Creative Cakes in Silver Spring stopped taking orders this week because it was so swamped. Bakers and decorators there will be churning out 21 wedding cakes on July 7 alone. On average, the bakery creates 28 cakes in an entire weekend.

Mercedes Marnay, 39, of Fairfax Station, said she felt a lot of pressure to book wedding vendors before other July 7 brides nabbed them. In the frenzy, she said, she put down a deposit on one wedding vendor, who skipped town and shut down his Web site and e-mail.

"I made a lot of harsh, quick decisions because I didn't want to be without a photographer or a wedding planner," she said.

Soiree Special Events in Reston is planning five weddings for the day. Laura Auer, the owner, said she's hiring about three times as many assistants as normal to help wedding coordinators on July 7.

Independence Day weekend has also created staffing problems for some wedding companies. July's humidity, with its wilting flowers and melting cakes, has typically been as undesirable time for weddings and perfect for long Fourth of July vacations.

"It's as hot as can be," said Leslie Poyourow, owner of Fancy Cakes By Leslie in Gaithersburg. "Who wants to be sweaty in a heavy bridal gown?"

Apparently, a lot of brides. Poyourow has hired extra hands to replace her vacationing staffers.

The trend in personalized and unique-themed weddings has sevens showing up everywhere. Seven-tiered wedding cakes. Seven-course meals. The Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City is celebrating with deluxe hotel packages for $7,777 and $7 drink specials. The date has also inspired gambling-themed slogans, such as "We hit the jackpot on our wedding," to accompany "777" on chocolate poker chips, hats, buttons and jackets for puppies.

Tammy Barrick, 26, Baskaran's fiancee, is offering M&Ms and candy bars stamped with three sevens as party favors. And there's more: An ice sculpture with the bride's and groom's names intertwined with the date. Mini wine bottles labeled with the triplicate. Seven bridesmaids and seven groomsmen.

"We didn't want to overdo it, but we do have it on a lot of things," she said.

The cost of all this good fortune can be steep.

"That's the unlucky part for the bride's father," said Colleen Evans, a spokeswoman for Ritz-Carlton in the District.

A few companies, such as Wal-Mart and the theme park chain Six Flags, are hosting special wedding celebrations on their premises.

"We go to Wal-Mart on average once, sometimes twice, a week," said Ella Glass, 25, who will be walking down the aisle at the Wal-Mart lawn and garden center in her hometown of Louisville, Ky. "We often window-shop at Wal-Mart together, so it makes sense to extend the Wal-Mart date to a Wal-Mart wedding."

Perhaps Washington weddings will be particularly lucky. After all, the city is at 77 degrees west longitude.

Wedding professionals are now hoping that another triplicate, 8/8/08, will be a popular date, as well as consecutive numbers like 6/7/08.

Somehow, 6/6/06 didn't arrive with the same fanfare.

It's also a big day for the gambling industry, as the following Associated Press article I found on the MyWay website, dated July 4, explains:

Everything's Coming Up 7-7-07

Jul 4, 4:51 PM (ET)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - With apologies to Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry, this Saturday you've got to ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?"

Lots of people do, for one simple reason. Saturday will be July 7, 2007, or 7-7-07. In numerological terms, that's about as big as it gets for the superstitious.

People are booking gambling junkets, casinos are offering "7"-themed promotions, and about three times the normal number of couples plan to get married that day, including Eva Longoria and basketball player boyfriend Tony Parker.

Nearly 100 couples will tie the knot atop roller coasters or inside revolving teacups at amusement parks at 7 that morning, a California yogi plans to achieve massive harmony through gong meditation at 7 that night, and Christians will gather in a Tennessee football stadium to pray on a day that has good Biblical implications for many.

Experts are quick to point out that Saturday is no more or less likely to be lucky than any other day. But try telling that to Allen Windrim, a 20-something entrepreneur from Philadelphia who owns a real estate management firm, a collection agency and a construction company.

"Hopefully I can get all my vacancies filled that day, all my collection cases settled without going to court, and get seven jobs for the construction company worth seventy-thousand each," he said.

"And then I'll take all that money and put it on Number Seven," he said. "I'm definitely in Atlantic City that day."

Casinos across the country are rolling heavy doses of sevens to attract superstitious gamblers, everything from $7 drink specials to luxury watches selling for $777. The Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City is offering a $7,777 package that includes a bi-level suite, two tickets to a show and the spa, and dining and shopping credits.

Craps players - among the most superstitious gamblers - have been buzzing for weeks about Lucky 7 Day, said Mario DiGuiseppe, the Tropicana's vice president of casino operations.

Asked if he believes in luck or superstition, DiGuiseppe responded with the certainty of one who knows that the odds always favor the house.

"I believe in math," he said with a chuckle.

Math is no obstacle for William Mobley of Philadelphia, who plans to be in Atlantic City on Saturday.

"I got a feeling about that day," he said. "I'll win over $700. Everything will go people's way that day. At least hopefully mine."

Gambles of a different sort will take couples down the aisle. Kathleen Murray, deputy editor of The Knot - - said 38,000 of the company's members are getting married that day, up from the normal 12,000 for a Saturday in July.

"This is a true phenomenon," she said. "I've never seen anything like this before. Seven has always been considered the luckiest number, and with three sevens in a row brides and grooms feel they're hitting the jackpot that day."

One of them is Jennifer Dybas, 27, of Channahom, Ill., whose fiancee, Jeff Michalek, 34, is a fanatical poker player. Their wedding theme: Lucky In Love.

"We're giving out instant lottery tickets as favors, and we have little chocolate poker chips with '777 - Lucky In Love' written on them," she said. "Our cake has dice on top and a roulette wheel on the bottom, and the king and queen of hearts on it."

"We got the last ballroom at the country club, the last DJ available at the place we went to, and the last photographer at the photo studio we wanted," she said. "So the luck is starting already."

Other brides chose the day for a more practical reason. "Some brides say their husbands will have no excuse to ever forget their anniversary this way," Murray said.

The Six Flags amusement park chain is hosting seven wedding receptions at 7 a.m. at each of its 12 U.S. facilities. They're calling the event "Thrilled Ever After."

The Ritz Carlton Hotel's Central Park location in New York is offering a July 7 wedding package with a reception for 77, a seven-tier wedding cake, seven Tiffany diamonds for the bride, and a seven-night honeymoon at any Ritz in the world for $77,777.

The day has big noncommercial potential as well. Harijiwan, a yoga instructor in Santa Monica, Calif., who uses only one name, plans a gong meditation course at 7 p.m.

"The numerology on this day - 7-7-07 - is phenomenal," he wrote on his Web site. "Seven represents the aura. Three sevens equals 21 (2+13). Three represents the positive mind. Add the 7 p.m. hour and you have four sevens, which equals 28 (2+810). Ten is the radiant body."

Christians will gather in the Nashville football stadium where the Tennessee Titans play to pray and fast on the 7th.

"The number is significant in the Bible because seven represents a covenant," said Julia Richardson, a spokeswoman for the event, titled The Call. "We feel we want to make a covenant with the Lord to pursue him. Whether it's 1,000 people or 100,000 people, we feel we can bring about a change through prayer and fasting."

Now, it is no doubt true that some of these people take the numbers more seriously than others, but all in all, this is pretty superstitious behavior on the part of citizens of the most technologically advanced society of the Century Number 7+7+7 (do the math!). Sure, 7 is an interesting number. It's a prime number, after all, and the hardest one to learn on the multiplication table. It stands out, which makes it a useful mnemonic device, hence it's popularity within societies in which writing is not known, or not widely used, so that memory is the main means of preserving knowledge. But is 7 especially lucky?

If you're from Great Britain, 7/7 is the equivalent of 9/11, the date of a massive terrorist attack. That was 7/7/05, actually, but not a very lucky day, nonetheless.

And writing the date as 7/7/07 takes away from the magic, even more so if we write 7/7/2007. Then it's not very special at all.

Our calendar itself is fairly arbitrary in the way it divides up months, and the way it numbers the days of each month. There are cultures in which other calendars are used, not to mention cultures in which no calendar exists, so is this day still lucky in such societies?

The reason July is the seventh month is that Julius Caesar altered the Roman calendar, naming a month after himself and inserting it in the 7th position. His heir, Augustus, followed suit with the eighth month. That's why September, whose name actually indicates that it is the seventh month is now the ninth, and October, whose name literally means the eighth month, is now tenth, and the same is true of November (nov = 9) and December (dec=10). And let's not forget that the two Caesars each a stole a day from the hapless month February and added it to their namesake months. Had this not happened, the date we marked as 7/5/07 would have been 7/7/07.

So our days and months are a Roman invention, while the year is a Christian invention that has no cosmic significance for non-Christians. And even for Christians, the number it is supposed to represent, the years since the birth of Jesus Christ, is considered erroneous, which means that this should probably be the year 2011, 2012, or 2013.

But the bottom line is that this is a great example of how people react to symbols as if they were things, that is, responding to
representations as it they were the reality they represent.
We devise means by which we measure our world, we invent systems of measurement in the same way that we invent tools and machines. These techniques for measuring the world are extensions of the body, based on arm and foot, for example, extensions of man, to use McLuhan's phrase. In other words, the measurement is the medium.

We create methods of measurement, and then forget that they are human inventions, and act as it they came from on high. Moreover, we forget that they are inventions at all, and act as if the measurement is the thing measured.

Worse yet, sometimes we take measurements not knowing what it is we are measuring, and then convince ourselves that we have measured something real and tangible. A great example of this are the various forms of intelligence testing that have been employed over the years, providing measurements for an abstract concept that no one has ever been able to define in a definitive manner. No one is entirely sure exactly what intelligence is, but once we have the measurement we can talk about it as if it were a concrete and tangible phenomenon. This is a point that my mentor, Neil Postman, frequently made, I should add.

General semantics is all about trying to get people to recognize the difference between symbol and reality. Media ecology is all about trying to understand the relationship between the two. If you can get a chance to work with these ideas and perspectives, well, that's lucky! I certainly consider it my good fortune.


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