Lucky 81

This week I’ve been giving more thought to putting the first 50 posts on this blog into a book of some kind. What I’m writing now is (I believe) post 49, and thinking about this led me to wonder about lucky numbers and why we have them. If I was to be asked about my own, I’d say that no number comes closer than 81. I say “if” because, to be honest, I don’t consider 81 to be particularly lucky for me, just a number that’s definitely kept popping up throughout my life even if I can’t remember exactly when. I do remember the first time, though – made so memorable by a makeshift parachute, of all things!

I was in Year 3 of first school and we must have been doing something revolving around gravity in Science. Whatever the case, it necessitated the appearance of tissue paper and string as everyone – perhaps in pairs – hastily cobbled together parachutes that could carry an egg, or something just as fragile, to the ground without breaking it. I didn’t have any hand in making mine as I couldn’t possibly be trusted with or capable of such a task then – or now, come to think of it! Before long, all of the parachutes were complete and we took it in turns to drop them from a controlled height. The most successful ones were judged not only on how intact their cargo was, but also on how quickly they fell. Various members of the class displaced each other with the fastest time, but when my turn came around I was in for a pleasant surprise.

I had been particularly excited to see how my parachute would fare, and this excitement grew as each of the other creations faced off against each other. There was success and failure in equal measure, and I didn’t know what to expect when all eyes were on my (or my teaching assistant’s) tissue paper canopy. It fell. It touched down. Everything was undamaged. Someone had stopped the stopwatch. The time was a very quick one. Quicker than any of those that had been recorded beforehand or would come later. Therefore, my teaching assistant’s parachute had won. But what was the time?

4.81 seconds. Note the last two digits! Reading this, you might think that it wouldn’t make sense for me to classify 81 as a number important to me if I can’t remember exactly where it’s incorporated itself into my life. In that first instance, however, when I won that contest, I’d achieved a victory that may have been small but was still rare in the face of the misfortune that had come my way because of my condition. I’d missed out on a lot compared to the kids around me but it was nice to have even that short moment of recognition. 81 was a good number for a parachute-dropping competition, and hopefully it was part of a good story here too. It looks pretty cool as well, don’t you think?

Mason

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