Report from Tomorrow - Vol 31

1USD = S$1.60 (S$1 = 0.60USD)


I've mentioned this before in other remarks, but now we've collected enough samples I just had to write about it. The Chinese, especially, here are so superstitious! I guess every culture has it's own superstitions, 13th floor, Friday the 13th, black cats, and ladders come to mind in ours. So I guess we should not be surprised S'poreans have their own set.

A Chinese who will be married in the near future should not attend another's wedding. I'm not sure if this applies to both men and women or not, but it did affect two young women where I work. Ju Lia got married first and one of her best friends, Lynette, could not attend the wedding because Lynette will be married in two months.

In a similar vein, an Indian who has had either parent die should not attend a wedding for one year.

All cats here in S'pore have short tails. Supposedly this is because the Chinese used to cut off the tails of cats. Doing so would prevent the cat from jumping over any dead bodies and thereby converting the dead into a zombie. Go figure!

Even numbers are lucky for the Chinese, especially eight. At Chinese New Years if you are invited to an open house, you absolutely must bring an even number of mandarian oranges (two is good). The Mandarian name for this fruit means "gold" and by bringing the oranges you wish them prosperity. Bringing three oranges is a sign of death.

Even and odd aren't quite so easy to understand in this Chinese culture. If you attend a Chinese wedding, you are to bring an ANG POW (money in envelope) and it better be an even number. If you want to given a substantial amount, there is a whole complex set of rules to determine what is even and what is odd. For instance, $100 is even, but $300 is not.

Eight is a very lucky number, especially 88 or 8888. After we did a demo of our software, a top level vice president tried to schedule a meeting with the bank Chairman so we could demo for him. He wanted the meeting scheduled for the 8th of October as that was a particularly auspicious date, but it was already booked. And if you are getting a cell phone, those numbers with double eights or four eights are very expensive as they are the most sought after.

As you might expect, the eighth day of the eighth month according to the Chinese calendar (which fell sometime in July of 1998, I think), is a particularly auspicious day. This is THE day to make the big decision or do other very important things in your life. Lots and lots of Chinese get married on this day each year.

But the Chinese aren't very consistent about their numbers. Four is associated with death because the Cantonese word for four sounds like the one for dead. So for some Chinese, four is not a lucky number. I guess the Cantonese do not bring four mandarin oranges at New Years time.

On the other hand, odd numbers are considered lucky for Indians. I was told about some of the celebration for the Indian New Year (called Deepavali which falls in mid October), women will circle the temple on their knees an odd number of times.

As you might expect then, nine is especially lucky for Indians. I suppose they look for cell phone numbers with an odd number of nines, although I was not actually told that.

During Hungry Ghost Month which fell in Sept for 1998, the Chinese make no major changes in their life. They do not move into a new place, or make major purchases like a car, or sign business deals, or make any preparations for a wedding. As soon as the month is up, everyone rushes around completing everything that was held up for the month.

This numerology has real effects in depressing or elevating the prices of real estate. If the address for your property has two or three eights, it'll cost you quite a bit more than your neighbor and conversely if your address has some fours, it'll be quite a bit cheaper.

Of course any unique event with a number associated with it is reason enough for people to place bets on it, like driving by an accident site and get the license numbers of the cars involved and then go buy a lottery ticket with those numbers.

A few years ago an Indian woman was standing in line at a bank in Little India here. It was getting late and the line was long, so she left the building, figuring she'd return another time. Within seconds of her leaving the building, the New World Hotel building collapsed, killing several hundred people ('twas quite a big deal here). The woman looked at her watch, read 11:37 and bet that number in the lottery and won S$4000.

In a similar fashion, you can imagine my surprise when one morning I finally realized the building where we live, as well as all moderately tall buildings in S'pore, had a 13th floor. I'm not talking about how you count floors in a building, but an honest-to-goodness button in the elevator labeled "13"!