Sunday, October 31 2004 @ 04:48 AM PST

Contributed by: matt

Tonight I saw something that I'd never seen before, but first, a little background.

Codes are everywhere, especially public ones. Whether or not we recognize them as such, we use them as a mental shorthand. For example, stoplights are a code (one woefully understood around here in general). The orientation of a raised flag is a code. Even product branding is a code (You'd recognize a can of Coke even if the label were in a language you didn't know.)

As many of you I'm sure already know, the lights on the top of the Old Hancock Tower have meanings, mostly weather related. From what I can remember, there are four codes that get used regularly:

I vaguely remember hearing that there were codes to determine hurricane and gale conditions as well, but I wasn't able to verify that.

Tonight the code that I saw was one that, to my knowledge, has never been used before (though I'd check that fact with the building before putting this statement into a respectable publication). It was blinking red and white. This, apparently, is what they decided the code should be if the Red Sox win the World Series, and that has never happened in the entire history of the building. The Old Hancock Tower was completed thirty-one years after the 1918 win, in 1949.

Prior to that, the tallest building in the city was the Custom House Tower. It was a mere three years old when the Red Sox won their last, and it's now relegated to "old historical building" status. Yes, in fact, it has been that long.

The Great Molasses Flood occured only four months after the 1918 World Series win, in January of 1919. Six months after that, World War I ended.

The life expectancy for men was 48.4 years, and for women it was 51.8 years.

Tophats and starched white shirts were the norm for men. Automobiles were not.

Women had only been allowed to vote for eight years.

Over a decade would pass before either the start of the Great Depression or the Empire State Building's ground breaking ceremony.

Popular music was transitioning from ragtime to jazz, and the flappers had yet to flap.

During the entire postseason, there was a pandemic of influenza that was killing people at an alarming rate. Between the war and disease that was a daily part of American life that year, the Red Sox victory went virtually unnoticed - there were only 15,238 fans at Fenway that day.