Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Bother Breaking the Glass, and What Happened to the 13th Floor Anyway?

Fire cabinet door closed - Sheva Apelbaum Fire cabinet door open- Sheva Apelbaum

This past week we were on vacation in Florida. It was great . I got to swim, walk on the beach look for treasures, hunt for coconuts (more about this in an upcoming blog), and visit the Miami Seaquarium - Sheva ApelbaumMiami Seaquarium (home of Lolita, the Killer Whale). One day as I was walking down the lobby of the building we were staying in, I spotted a fire “cabinet”. The cabinet had a glass door that held a large valve, a fire extinguisher, and a long water hose with a nozzle. At the top of the glass door was a red label that read: “IN CASE OF FIRE BREAK GLASS” and at the bottom of the door hung a long metal pipe that was chained to the door frame which, I guess, you’re supposed to use as a hammer in order to break the glass. 

As we were standing  by the elevator waiting for the doors to open up, I couldn't resist the temptation and so I tugged lightly on the hammer chain which made the glass door swing right open.

So why would you want to break the glass if you can simply open the door instead?  Inspired, I decided to check out all the fire cabinets on each floor of the building to see if this was just a coincidence. 

I started on the ground floor (LL) and made my way all the way to the top (22 floor), all the while taking notes on how many cabinets were open vs. closed (see table below).  The tally: 9 opened and 12 closed, which may indicate that they would prefer if you didn’t break approximately half of the cabinets in case of emergency.

Floor Number and Closet State (L=Locked, O=Open)

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

-

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

O

L

L

L

L

O

L

L

L

O

L

O

-

O

O

O

O

O

L

L

L

L

Interestingly, after I was done checking the fire cabinet on the 12th floor and then got back in the elevator to go up to the next floor, to my surprise, I discovered that the elevator panel didn’t have a button for floor number 13. In fact, the building didn’t even have a 13th floor! 

Elevator and 13th Floor - Sheva Apelbaum

So I researched it a bit and I discovered that in some parts of the US and elsewhere in the world, builders and elevator manufacturers deliberately avoid having a 13th floor. Instead, they go directly from 12 to 14. 

What's wrong with the number 13? The practice of avoiding the number 13 is based on a superstition that it is an unlucky number.  So the actual reason for not using it in buildings is because superstitious residents would refuse to live in apartments located on that floor. 

Now, as you can see from the photograph of the building, it clearly has a 13th floor.  So it appears that the tenants don’t really mind living on that floor, so long as everyone else agrees to continue calling it floor number 14.

The mysteries 13th floor - Sheva Apelbaum

There it is in all it’s glory…but mum’s the word!

5 comments:

  1. That's so funny about the superstition surrounding the number 13! As I recall, it was a very good age to be! We don't skip a year in our lives, so why skip calling a floor 13 when there most surely is a thirteenth floor? I say I'm not superstitious, but I do admit I don't like to walk under ladders (probably because I've never seen a ladder big enough to walk under). That is one of the mysteries of life :-)

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  2. Sheva, you also made me thinking of the number 13 and I searched a little bit the Internet about where it came from that this number is supposed to be an 'unlucky' number and I found all kind of reasons.
    But then I found something interesting: at Wikipedia is explained a lot more about being 13 a lucky number in many cultures and about the number 13 in general (Bar Mizwah age for exampel).
    And then I saw this: 'According to Torah God has 13 Attributes of Mercy' - I wanted to know what they are, hm, I did not find the answer.
    So, who knows what are Gods 13 Attributes of Mercy?
    BTW: I am not superstitious, I do not mind Friday the 13, a black cat (I had Gerber, didn't I?), and I will go under any ladder without fear.

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  3. Oh Sheva, I was just now reading the story of Lolita......

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  4. I don’t think that numbers by themselves are good or bad. The value of the Hebrew word אהבה = Love is 13 (Alef=1, Hey=5, Bet=2, Hey=5), so it couldn’t be so bad :-)

    My dad also pointed out that it is interesting that beside God’s 13 attributes of mercy, there are also the 13 principles of belief (which I’m trying to memorize now). The 13 attributes of mercy come from the book of Exodus 34:6.

    The 13 attributes of mercy are:

    (1) יְהוָה
    (2) יְהוָה
    (3) אֵל
    (4) רַחוּם
    (5) וְחַנּוּן
    (6) אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם
    (7) וְרַב חֶסֶד
    (8) וֶאֱמֶת
    (9) נצר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים
    (10) נשֵׂא עָון
    (11) וָפֶשַׁע
    (12) וְחַטָּאָה
    (13) וְנַקֵּה, לא יְנַקֶּה

    (1) The LORD
    (2) the LORD
    (3) God
    (4) merciful
    (5) and gracious
    (6) long-suffering
    (7) and abundant in goodness
    (8) and truth
    (9) keeping mercy to the thousandth generation
    (10) forgiving iniquity
    (11) and transgression
    (12) and sin
    (13) will not forgive the guilty

    Just in case you would like to listen, I am including my rendition of it with the help of “Brigitte,” my violin. God’s 13 attributes of mercy.

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  5. Thank you very much Sheva!
    And "Brigitte" was wonderful!
    Nishibuk! Yael.

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