I started getting notes last month about whether I had “special plans” for issue #666. “Not that the number actually means anything, but it tickles me to have noticed the landmark,” noted one, Jordan in S.A., Australia.
Indeed, I do consider it as much superstition as being afraid of the number 13. Wikipedia has a good article on the many variations — it addresses how the number came to be regarded with such disrepute; or should that be 616 that’s feared?
Trembling in Fear
The irrationality over the number is so great that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pushed through a change of U.S. Highway 666 due to its “infamy brought by the inopportune naming of the road.” It’s now known as U.S. Highway 491. Americans laugh at “primitive” and “superstitious” people, then tremble in fear over an arbitrary number.
It’s not particularly surprising, then, that I was able to find enough “666” stories to fill an entire issue (perhaps with the exception of the last one, where I cheated — I couldn’t resist including it).
I even passed on a few, such as reports that Britney Spears had scrawled “666” on her shaved head and ran around the rehab clinic where she’s currently staying, shouting that she’s “the Antichrist” and trying to hang herself.
It just smacked of too much tabloidy speculation; there are plenty of photos of her with her head shaved, but none show any “666” marks. And indeed, adding such details is exactly what I’d expect of trashy tabloids. I didn’t find any American newspapers that reported on it — until a bunch of foreign tabloids ran the story, attributing web sites and gossip columns, and then American papers reported that foreign papers were reporting it.
That’s not the kind of audit trail I find compelling.
Then there was the Cardinal at the Vatican who recently warned the Pope that the Antichrist was coming — someone who is “a pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist.” I was attracted to it since it would help widen the story mix outside of the U.S., and it illustrated the irony of a mainstream religion trying to demonize the concepts of peace, being good stewards of our planet, and Christian unity. But Cardinal Giacomo Biffi has been crying wolf about the Antichrist for decades, and I just couldn’t find any passion in the story; so that one was dumped into the bit bucket too.
So even with more source items than I needed, it was still hard to come up with just the right mix of stories on one fairly narrow concept. But I think I pulled it off — even though I didn’t finish until 2:15 this morning!
My Post Office Box
Meanwhile, every month or so I get a note from a reader asking about my PO Box number: is that “on purpose”?
When I first was moving here, I was randomly assigned box 668. As I bent down to check it the first time, it of course occurred to me that it was “the neighbor of the beast,” and I glanced in 666’s window. There was mail in it: that meant it was in use. I smiled and went on with my business.
But about a year later, when I bent down to get my mail (tall guys always get mailboxes near the floor), I happened to notice that box 666 was closed off. I immediately went to the counter. By then, I knew the main gal there quite well.
“Connie, is 666 available?” I asked. “Yes…” she said, a bit hesitantly. She was already quite aware that much of my outgoing mail consisted of stacks of Get Out of Hell Free cards, but she explained that Don, the local postmaster, had instructed her not to rent 666 out, because he figured the good people of Ridgway would be offended by it.
“But on the other hand you’re asking for it,” she continued, starting to think about it more, “and besides: Don is on vacation,” which left her in charge. She handed over a form and I was granted the keys to the box right on the spot.
Considering the GOOHF cards are all about not taking things so seriously, having PO Box 666 being the address to order them from was just too perfect.
This year I’m having my tax guy change my address with the IRS to the box too, since every time I try to figure out the endless corporate tax forms, I curse the IRS to burn in hell. It’s why I have to have a tax guy: he is the buffer so I don’t actually say something like that to their faces.
The Locals Are Cool
So how offended are the locals by the number? Well, in 2006, when I passed a million GOOHF cards sold, the local newspaper wrote up the phenomenon. The lead-in to the story: who had Box 666 in town, and what was sold out of it.
I got lots of pats on the back when it came out. I imagine that a reasonable percentage of the people who read the GOOHF site get a chuckle when they get to the address, where “666” is in bold.
The superstitious may quiver that “666” is “evil” or something. I just laugh and move forward, because I have the ability to think.
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