I was never a particularly enthusiastic student. Oh, if my teacher was inspirational, I would do well at the subject, but if the teacher was ho-hum, so was I.
Surprisingly, my math teachers were all wonderful women, devoted to the arts of arithmetic, geometry and even that hateful trigonometry. But despite their brilliance at the subject, it could only ever garner a lukewarm reaction from me.
I relate to words, not numbers. Even to this day I have not the foggiest idea what relevance trigonometry brings to my life – not the inkling of an idea. Sine, cosine, tan - what? No, as hard as I try to think even now, it leaves me with the feeling that someone was speaking Sanskrit to me. It might have been absolutely thrilling, but I had no way to translate it into words or ideas I could, or can, understand.
I did OK at math. I mean, for heaven’s sake, my first 16 years of existence was surrounded by imperial currency - pounds, shillings and pence, and if I remember correctly, halfpennies (pronounced haypennies) and even farthings. I might be lying about farthings – quarter pennies, but I certainly remember halfpennies.
I even had my first part time job at the tender age of 13 or so at Peterson’s of Pymble – a very small department store, where I worked the ribbon and elastic counter, measuring out yards of the stuff and having to work out what two and a half yards at sixpence halfpenny was worth. The mind curdles just thinking about it.
Many years later I was with my ex-husband at his family home in London, and he asked me to add a column of figures – all in pounds, shillings and pence. I had a vague memory of there being 12 pennies to a shilling, and I think 20 shillings to a pound. But how to add one column and correctly carry over a number to the next column had frankly oozed out of my brain at some point in my youth. I was stumped.
Sir of course, is a math wiz, finding no evil lurking behind a row of numbers, just waiting to trip him up. Me, I can do the Word Jumble without a pen, but give me numbers and I go into quiet blithering idiotdom.
So it was with some wry amusement that I listened to Sir’s math story the other day which had tragedy written all over it. He had an early start and dropped by McDonald’s for breakfast. The total was $4.12, and so he handed over a $5 bill plus 12 cents. The little server handed him 88 cents back.
“But, but, I gave you $5.12 – you now owe me 12 cents.”
“Oh,” came the reply. “I can’t,” she added. “And why not?” asked Sir – taking on his mother’s steely gaze and Depression Era sense of righteousness.
“I can’t open the drawer.”
Oh dear. “Manager!” Nobody’s bilking Sir out of 12 cents on a technicality!
Annie Dear lives in Lee’s Summit. Email her at email@example.com.