Friday, 5 December 2008

A History of 666

“Do you know what 666 means?” it is almost-quotation paraphrase of a reply that I got when I sent my first email using my first hotmail address to a stranger in a hope of making an online friend who I had never seen. Surprised and mildly shocked by the reply, I thought, “I guess, he doesn’t like strangers”.

Being a Muslim and living in a Muslim majority country, I had no idea why the recipient was offended by my email.

It wasn’t until a few years later when I accidentally found that it wasn’t my email that offended the recipient; but rather my email address which had the figure 666 in it.

What I found out was that in West, among Christians to be exact, 666 is “The Number of the Beast”, an extremely unholy number. With Christians comprising less than 3% of the total population, I found very few Christians in my country and their only interest with Christianity was to be able to get into a local church without being accused of being a Muslim by the white pastor. None of my local Christian friends and acquaintances could relate anything special to this number.

Not that I believe you are curious, I will tell you the story of my email address and how I ended up with the number 666 in it.

Along with being a number in locally used decimal numerical system, which by a strange coincidence is also used internationally, 555 is also the name of a local cheap brand of cigarettes (or fags in British). I was trying to come up with an “acceptable” email address with hotmail. All of user names of my choice had been taken and hotmail was giving me all kinds of strange suggestion which mostly involved adding a number after my user name just before circular a. By the way where is it, oh yeah, found it: @.

Most of the numerical suggestions from hotmail, for some reason, involved either the information regarding my birth or then-current year. I wanted to have an email address which wouldn’t be very open about my descent to the mortal world or the animal type of then-current year. Any random number chosen by me had a very good chance of slipping out of my mind just after me hitting “sign out” button. Suddenly an imaginary light-bulb over my head suggested the number 555. With this number had I forgotten my email address, all I had to do was drop by local candy store and get a little glimpse of the cigarette-racks behind the storekeeper. Then again, I did not want to use a brand-name in my email address since I hade no promise of financial compensation from the cigarette-manufacturer for the unintentional advertisement of their product. Then the number 666 was thrown at me by the same light-bulb. It worked on many different levels. Its pattern was obviously very similar to the brand-name which I won’t be mentioning anymore. The number in writing is very similar to the brand-name which I won’t be mentioning anymore. The brand-name which I won’t be mentioning anymore is very easy to make into 666 should I make a calligraphic mistake while adorning the façade of my concrete home with my email address instead of the building number. Had I forgotten my hotmail user name, all I had to do to remember it was drop by my local candy store, get a glimpse of cigarette-racks behind the storekeeper, and add 111 to the brand-name which I won’t be mentioning anymore. Number 111 was easy to remember. It was a part of almost all of local UAN’s, the so-called Universal Access Numbers.

Long story short I used the number 666 and the email address was never used twice.

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