“Three” is a magic number. It dominates our culture, yet we hardly notice how far it pervades all aspects of our lives: 3 strikes and you’re out – “I’m going to count to 3 and you better get cracking by the time I’m done” – Our flag, and that of many countries, is tri-colored. We teach our kids to react to fire in three steps: stop, drop and roll. – The most popular sandwich is a BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato).
Most jokes have three elements, “Three guys walk into a bar. An Irishman, a Scott and a Russian….” We decide things by threes (rock, paper, scissors). Ever hear of a two-ring circus or a nursery rhyme with two blind mice? Of course not! Matter itself, exists in three states (solid, liquid and gas). We have three meals a day, live in a three-dimensional world, with tri-color traffic lights at intersections. If a cop catches you running one, he may give you a ticket for being “three” sheets to the wind.
We refer to TV networks with three-letter notations: ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN. Most people have three names. Those with only two are considered odd. Workers in corporate offices are referred to by their initials, three letters. I was MWL for decades. I worked for several different bosses: IMS, JHR, DLG, to name three. They sometimes wore, 3 piece suits. Sports organizations follow suit, referring to themselves as the: NFL, NBA, AHL, PGA (football, basketball, hockey, golf).
And, how about, the bad luck you can expect if you light 3 cigarettes on a match – or – the 3rd time is a charm – or – on your mark, get set, go – or – Neapolitan, one of the most popular ice-cream flavors (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry). Nor can we forget the 3 Stooges. And, how many speeches you’ve sat through where the speaker made 3 main points.
It never ends, this 3 thing. A genie gives you 3 wishes, 3 wise men brought gifts, cops give you the 3rd degree, friends come to you with news and give you 3 guesses at what it is. Columbus discovered America with a convoy of 3 ships. Even something as fundamental as our education system is built upon a foundation of 3, the three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic. (Oddly, only one starts with an R). Death comes in threes. Coffee is offered in 3 sizes (small, medium and large, unless you are at a Starbucks; their choices are Tall, Grande or Venti. I’ll give you three guesses to name which is the small size. Even reality comes in three versions: yours, mine, and the real truth. This is my version. How many “threes’ in yours?
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