On Sharing a Birthday

On Sharing a Birthday

Something strange happened to me, once, on January 12, in a year in the early 1990s. Until that day, I knew of no one who shared the same birthday as myself. Then, that day, I happened to flip on my car radio, which was already tuned to a news/talk radio station. I was completely stunned by what happened next, for I had accidentally stumbled upon The Rush Limbaugh Show on his birthday — and mine. I learned this almost immediately, for one of Limbaugh’s callers said, right after I turned the radio on, “Hi, Rush! Happy birthday dittoes!”

Limbaugh laughed, and thanked the caller. I screamed, and then I yelled, “Noooooo! I can’t have the same birthday as Rush Limbaugh!” However, like it or not, I had to admit that this coincidence was, indeed, true. Also, since Limbaugh is older than I am, I also had to face up to the fact that he had this birthday first.

I wanted to have someone else to know I shared a birthday with — someone I could respect — so I did some research to find other people who also shared the same birthday as myself. In those days, of glacially-slow dial-up Internet with much, much less of value to be found there, this meant actually going to a physical library, looking in actual, bound-paper books (how primitive, right?), and spending a few hours to do what can now be done, with Google and Wikipedia, in seconds. I learned, in those hours, that I also share the birthday of January 12 with none other than John Hancock, the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, according to the old-style system for the date of his birth. (The difference between old- and new-style dates is caused by the discrepancies between the Julian and Gregorian calendars.) Given that the primary author of that document was my all-time favorite president, Thomas Jefferson, that was something of which I could be proud.

In later years, I learned that Wikipedeans (a group to which I belong) have constructed pages there where anyone can quickly and easily learn with whom they share a birthday. The one for my birthday is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_12. By looking at the corresponding page for your own birthday, you, too, can find out whom you share a birthday. No matter what day that is, you’re quite likely to find, as I did, both people you like and dislike. After all, there are only 366 birthdays to go around, so sharing birthdays with famous (and infamous) people is inevitable for us all.

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