I admit it. I am a math doofus. I am in awe of people who have jobs that require a knowledge of numbers higher than I have fingers and toes to count on.
Thankfully, the three I gave birth to did not inherit my defective math genes. My older son is three months away from acquiring his CPA certification, my younger son is studying economics, and even my daughter, who is the quintessential blonde, zipped through her high school math courses without breaking a sweat. She actually had offers from classmates to tutor them in pre-calculus.
I did fine in math in elementary school. It was when algebra reared its ugly head in junior high that the problems started. It was so bad, that eventually even something as simple as 2 + 2 was enough to bring on a cold sweat. I will never forget the day when my geometry teacher, a really nice man named Mr. Watts, asked to see our report cards to make sure the computer hadn't messed up the grades he'd given us. He looked at mine, all A's and a lonely D, my very first one, looked back at me and mouthed "I'm sorry". I could tell he felt badly for me, but apparently not badly enough to offer to bring the D up to a more respectable B.
Today, my daughter and I went to the fabric store to purchase some fabric to cover the big bulletin board in her dorm room. The board is 77" long and 41" high. The fabric she wanted to buy was 45" wide. I was bright enough to know that the material would adequately cover the height of the board, but how much to buy was more than my little ol' brain could handle. Before I could get a pencil and a piece of scrap paper out to start figuring the math, Miss Blondie crunched the numbers in her head and announced that 2 1/2 yards would do the job, with a little extra left over for a small crafts project. Now I know that was nothing more than simple arithmetic, but I was impressed that she could whomp up the answer so effortlessly. Even so, I double-checked her results while she went off to find ribbon trim. It took me five minutes with my paper and pencil, but by gum, she got it!
The next challenge was the ribbon. The ribbon is packaged in nine-foot lengths, the board's perimeter is 236". How many spools of ribbon do we buy? Oh, geez Louise. Again, my offspring came to the rescue. I'm convinced if she hadn't been with me, I'd be there still, counting on my fingers and trying to divide some number into zero.
Since my father died about 18 months ago, I've been balancing my mother's bank statements. Until I was forced to take over this chore, I had not willingly balanced a statement, or so much as looked at one, since college. Bank statements and I do not get along. Spring semester of my sophomore year, my parents had to shell out a lot of money in overdraft charges because I did not know that banks charged monthly fees. I also wrote a lot of 50 cent checks for french fries that I forgot to record in my checkbook. These things added up over time until one day I went shopping for Christmas presents and unknowingly littered the town with bad checks. Suddenly I was College Station's Most Wanted, not to mention Most Embarrassed after presenting myself at a half-dozen various establishments to pay up what was owed.
So after nearly 30 years of not having to deal with bank statements, I was back facing my old nemesis. As luck would have it, about two months after I took charge of the bank balancing I discovered my mother was off by almost $3,000.00, and the "off" was not in her favor, either. Trying not to whimper because she was sitting right there waiting for me to finish, I looked the statement over again and saw two withdrawals made to Wal-mart for that amount. My mother does not shop at Wal-mart, but someone, somewhere, had gone to town on her checking account. The news that she had been the victim of fraud just weeks after her husband of 61 years had passed away, did not go down well, but we got through it and I still balance her account each month. People who are comfortable with numbers cannot understand the head rush that ensues when I...moi...manage to balance to the penny on the first pass. It's such a little thing, but it gives me hope that maybe someday I might be able to retire my fingers.
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