I used to remember that kilometres were approximately 5/8 of a mile and that a Dollar and a Euro were 5/8 of a £ (and may yet be again). And I’m obviously not the only person who has a nostalgic fondness for those two numbers.
Shopping in a grocery store in a former soviet republic last week (which is worth going to just to experience the soviet-style customer service and compare it to your friendly call centres) I asked for 2 bottles of water which I knew were 5 in the local currency as I had bought similar ones a few days earlier.
The shop keeper held out all five digits on her hand and said “8”. I queried the price and she gestured again and said it again, but louder; “8”! (She’d obviously learned from the English that it’s best to raise your voice when dealing with foreigners). So I gave her 5 and she was happy – it was hard to tell actually but she didn’t shout at me again.
Then a day or two later in yet another former soviet republic a shopkeeper, despite the fact that the item I was buying was clearly marked at 5 Euros, insisted it was 8! Maybe they were cousins, former communards under the skin, but no misunderstanding their body language.
The number 5 is considered auspicious in some religions and belief systems as is the number 8. They follow on in the Fibonacci series as well (that’s the one that occurs in nature and probably Dan Brown books). So you just wonder sometimes if there are celestial powers at work?
Then, despite the volcanic ash threats, I came back to England from my European tour and find that Gordon Brown has resigned and we have a new European style government. Makes you wonder sometimes.
And now research about lucky numbers in Hong Kong (where 8 is considered lucky and 4 unlucky) confirms the economic impact of superstitious beliefs, not just on the stock market but on the sale of car number-plates. I was struck by the numbers on the picture illustrating the article. http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2010/06/lucky-number-plates-go-up-in-value-when.html