Monday, May 26, 2014


I am not a superstitious person. I do not believe in God as some human entity to whom we need to pray for forgiveness. (I do believe in the idea of truth and the need to religiously adhere to truth).  I do not believe in the supernatural although I do believe that there is much that we in 2014 do not know which will someday be seen as natural, not supernatural.

I don't believe in ghosts or apparitions and when I hear people speak of them I think they are gone. Had a date with a woman in the 80s. We went to dinner. First date. The salad arrived. She picked up her fork and then said there was something I should know about her.  I said, okay.  She told me that this was her third lifetime.  I snorted the salad. The check could not come fast enough.  Another time in the late 70s I met a friend coincidentally at a restaurant and we started to feel a buzz. Then she asked me my sign and began in earnest to describe how astrological forces could affect the quality of a relationship. End of buzz.

So, I do not dwell in the Twilight Zone.  Therefore, go explain my reaction to the number 86.

I do not like the number 86.  If I finish a chapter in a book that ends at page 86, I continue on so my bookmark will not be on page 86.  If a bill ends in 86 I write out a check that ends in 87.  I could not wait for the odometer on my car to get to 87,000.  If I see that a bank statement ends in 86 I will add or take out some money.


Of course there is no good reason. This is as crazy as the woman who told me this was her third lifetime before she stabbed a tomato.  But here is the origin and maybe some readers will cut me some slack.

In the summer of 68, beginning Memorial Day in May 68, and then on weekends in the summer of 69 I worked in the borscht belt. I was a busboy and a waiter during this time.   One day I went to the hot steamy, crazy tense, kitchen and yelled--as was the protocol--"six roast beef, two rare, two medium, two burnt." The sous chef was a sourpus if there ever was one who was probably making minimum wage and was hot and tired of dealing with college boys on their way to professions while he labored in a dead end sweat shop job. I said six roast beef and the sous chef barked back at me:

"86 on the roast beef."

I was a newbie at the time and was perplexed by the response.  Thought maybe he did not hear the numbers right.

"No, I said, SIX, roast beef, two medium, two rare, two burnt."

"EIGHTY SIX!!" he bellowed. Again, I did not quite get it.  So I just looked at him.  His response to my stare: "Eighty fucking six on the roastbeef".

Okay. I knew I am not getting roast beef from this guy. So I asked around and found out that 86 was the word used when something was out.  86 on the roastbeef meant they were out of roast beef. 86 on the hot sauce meant there was no hot sauce. 86 meant, nothing left.

Years later Kojak would refer to dead people as those who had been 86ed.  As in killed.

But in the kitchen 86 meant there was nothing left. So, in my case, the message was go back to the table and tell the guests that we were out of roast beef and to pick something else from the menu.

I don't remember when the number 86 began to have a sinister meaning for me.  I do not recall feeling that way, for example, in 1986 which came and went without incident.  But it has been years and years since I have had this aversion to anything with eighty six in it.

Maybe it is because I don't like thinking about anything good being over.  86 means it is over.  Don't like the sound of that.  Maybe I should try and 86 this superstition.

P.S. Today, the Red Sox 86th their ten game losing streak. Final score. 8-6. Sox.

No comments:

Post a Comment