8.4.09

375

I lived on Spartan Street in East Lansing for a year with Dave. We lived in a tiny house more like a cabin. Living room, bedroom, bathroom, kitchen. Our two mattresses took up the entire floor of the bedroom, piles of clothing and books stacked around all walls. This was the year I dropped out of school and worked a series of bad jobs until I landed steady work at the Clark gas station next to campus. Dave had a car so he drove pizza, and when we weren't working we spent a lot of time writing, reading, and doing math.

One evening alone, I read a chapter in a Martin Gardner book. It was about Dr. Matrix, a mathematical con man, and in this episode he was posing as a numerologist, pointing all kinds of number coincidences. Gardner's point in this story is that number coincidences are quite ubiquitous, and upon finishing the chapter I began to think if there were numbers of significance in my life.

That's when I noticed 375. It has been staring at me my whole life. Growing up my phone number was 375-0517, and Dave's, next door, was 375-0414. In fact, all of my friends had 375 phone numbers (all except Eddie, who lived in a distant neighborhood and had the fancy prefix 652).

375 is also the first digits of my social security number. And my phone number the previous year when I lived in the dorm was 353-7570, which had a 375 in the middle, tucked between a 35 and a 70. Cool!

I had a puzzle book of my father's and I knew it had the street address the house we lived in when I was born. I dug it up, and was thrilled to see 5739 Hollister Lane. A backwards 375.

Very satisfied, I turned to the next chapter. This chapter was on a mnemonic system to memorize numbers. The key was to map digits to consonant sounds, like 1 = T or D, 2 =N, 3=M, 4=R, etc.) and fill in the vowels at will to make words. 141592 can be TRee, TaiL, PaN. Next, link the images together, maybe like this: The Tree had Tails hanging from it, the Tails fall off the tree into a frying pan, etc. A very long string of images can be together to make a bizarre story that is fairly easy to remember. (I would later use this system to memorize far too many digits of pi, but that's another story). Sometimes, if you're lucky, a phone number can a phrase, like "TaSTe heR awFuL MeaTLoaF".

Likewise, words can be turned into numbers, so "NuMBeR" become 2394, for example.

I decided to learn the system, and so the very first word I chose to try out the system was my first name, "Michael." Pulling out the phonetic consonant sounds yields MKL, a 3-digit number. A weird feeling came over me as I looked up the letters on the chart in the book and wrote down each corresponding digit. It turns out that "Michael" = 375... !

To find this connection just moments after tracking down other 375s in my life was a little bit surreal, a moment I won't forget.