You Can Count On Me

Before I was born, my mother worked at a bank. My father began his career as a toolmaker and machinist. They are both good at math. My brother has a Ph.D. and is good at math along with a lot of other things. Ken is good at math. Kate is exceptional at math, having taken advanced calculus, and is able to do computer coding. Me? I am sh*tty at math. I’m like the middle of a very mathematical Venn Diagram where the middle is someone with no ability to work with numbers AT ALL, and that person is playing with a puppy and laughing at memes about cats, and if you’re saying to yourself right now, “That’s not how Venn diagrams work!”, let me once again remind you that I AM NO GOOD AT MATH. At work, I’m responsible for cashing customers out at the till, and there’s one regular who INSISTS on waiting until I’ve punched the amount of money he gave me into the computer, then also INSISTS on changing the amount of money he gave me just so he can laugh while I try to figure out how much change I owe him.

And the point of this very self-deprecating prologue is to set up the following story. Ken came home the other day and said, “I was at the bank and they’re looking for part-time help. I’d love to do it but I already have 7 volunteer jobs and 3 paying jobs so I don’t think I’d have time. But it’s right across the street so why don’t you apply?”

I didn’t hear him at first because I was trying to mentally add up how many jobs he had (10! The answer is 10!), but then I thought about how nice it would be not to have to drive on a very busy highway every day to get to my current job. So I printed off a resume and went over. The people there were lovely, and after chatting with the manager, I had a good vibe, but then this happened:

Manager: So you can count money, right?
Me: Count money?
Manager: Part of the job is being able to count.
Me (laughs lightly): Of course I can count.

And I wasn’t lying—I really CAN count but…how much and how high are we talking here?! On the way home, I was really quiet:

Ken: What’s wrong?
Me: What have I done?! What if I get an interview and there’s a MATH TEST? The closest I’ve ever come to doing math professionally was teaching Life Of Pi!
Ken: You’re worrying too much. It’s not like you’d have to be doing calculus—it’s probably just basic math.

And then I felt better and remembered that I used to help Kate with her math homework, and that always went well:

Kate: Math, math, blah, blah, dividing by zero.
Me: Oh, that’s easy. Whenever you divide by zero, you end up with the same number you started with. Like 15 divided by zero is 15.
Kate: No, it’s not! You can’t divide by zero.
Me: Sure you can. I have 15 things. There’s zero things that go into it, so I still have 15 things.
Kate: That’s NOT how it works. It’s impossible. See, if I put 15 divided by zero into my calculator, it says “Error”.
Me: I paid good money for that calculator—what’s wrong with it?
Kate: Nothing! You just can’t divide by zero.
Me: But I just did.
Kate: But you’re wrong. Zero would go into 15 an infinite number of times, so it can’t be calculated.
Me: But I just calculated it.
Kate: NO, YOU DIDN’T.
Me: Look. If you have 15 slices of bacon, and you try to divide them by zero, how many slices of bacon do you have left? 15! Because you have eaten zero of them!
Kate: 15 is the REMAINDER!…IS there bacon?
Me: Sure. Do you want 15 slices or zero?

Anyway, I have an interview on Tuesday, so wish me luck. I’m counting on it.

67 thoughts on “You Can Count On Me

  1. There are three types of people in the world: those who can’t count, and those who can.
    -joke told by my 9th grade math teacher at the beginning of the first day of class. Most of us–I’m going to say “all”–nodded somberly. We knew we had come to the right place.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I know you can do it Suzanne, you’ve got a determination that no one can take away. Or it is ruthlessness okay it could be that too but don’t l know you won’t back away from a challenge! Also, I would have slapped that customer upside the head for doing that to me. But think of it this way, those who are stellar at math are seldom articulate in writing, communication, English or literature. You know the creativity some people possess. Ken and Kate not included in that statement. But I’m realizing that with my current boss, he’s an awesome guy and is so good at math it’s scary how he can compute things in his head. But he comes to me because his writing skills are……..well let’s just say he has none, lol. Good luck on your interview my friend 🤞😃.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The odds, I think, are in your favor. Odds usually involve fractions and for all that I’m terrible at math too I was always pretty good at fractions, maybe because they could be visualized with pie. Abstract math like algebra I always had trouble with, but practical real-world math I can understand even if I take a little longer to think about it. That’s why your example of dividing by zero shows the inherent weakness of calculators. Calculators use a non-existent numbers. They’d work better if they used bacon.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are so brave! I would not be able to work at a bank. I barely made it through part of a summer at the front desk of a hotel, processing check-ins and final bills. It was a disaster, but the managers kept me on because my mistakes, apparently, were incredibly hilarious–to them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mathematicians swear the Universe is Math. Physicists swear it physics. Chemists…
    I think it’s a pecan log roll, the kind with white divinity candy inside that you never really want to share but have to, cuz, eating the whole thing yourself… (would be divine!)

    I write code all day long and I also suck at math. Technically, all you need to know to write code is 10, which is two. You also might want to learn “abcdef”, as well, which are numbers. But only for Hex, which is used in witchcraft, which, perhaps, you might have latent genes for.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Right there with you! Your way makes complete sense and Kate’s Korrect Way makes zero sense. I used to always make a point with the kids I taught to point out that you can be really good at something but to not let them get bummed out by that, and they could still do what they want. I would tell them that I still count on my fingers and can’t tell time, and yet I graduated college with honors. *laugh* And then I would teach them all my math “hacks” to work around all that calculation stuffy stuff that just seems to be there to preserve math as some abnormally mysterious and complicated process to keep out the math riffraff like me (which, yes, it worked!)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I have a feeling you can handle the counting at the bank, Suzanne. And right across the street sounds sweet. I’m not a math whiz either and I don’t see why 15 can’t be divided by zero. Makes perfect sense to me that you’d still have 15. 🙂 I’ll have to ask the teller at my bank. Thanks for the laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love your reasoning with 15 pieces of bacon divided by zero. Makes perfect sense to me.

    I think that’s why I struggled so much with math in school. I’d always want to know the Why of the problem, e.g. why is John giving Jill these apples if he’s so concerned about having some left over?

    I think my math teachers kept Bottles in their desks.

    Liked by 1 person

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