Celebrate the Arbitrary!

It was quite the weekend. Saturday's 07/07/07 was all the buzz in the media with all the weddings, induced births, Las Vegas celebrations, and people playing the lottery. Also on Saturday, my car's odometer reached 55,555 miles. And with the hot weather returning on Sunday, the TV weather people were all excited about how there might be an "official heat wave" (three consecutive days 90°F or above).

Stuart Goldman
Such an abundance of "special" numbers made me think about how people mark such milestones born of arbitrariness. In some respects, I'm as bad as everyone else. Should I notice that it's 11:10 and 50 seconds, I'll usually pause to watch it hit 11:11 — and then 11:11:11.

Time and calendrical systems, whose day and year are based on the motions of the Earth, are divided into more manageable chunks not because of any natural divisions of time, but just because these are what we wound up with after millennia. Twenty-four hours in a day? Months with 28, 29, 30, or 31 days? It works. Now people can put unwarranted importance when the digits align.

If my odometer measured kilometers, it would have read 89,388 when I pulled over Saturday night and took the photo here. Where's the fun in that?

And heaven forbid that we have two weeks when it only reaches 89°, never crossing the magical 90° barrier. I guess we wouldn't otherwise know it was hot outside.

Aren't numbers fun — even when they're subjective?

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