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In Which Gloria Reaches For Her Calculator

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader

2009-07-06


At a family gathering a couple of months ago, I found out thereís another member of my family who is as bad at math as I am. Welcome to the club, Alex. You have my condolences.

I wasnít always terrible at math, but in the seventh grade, everything connected with school took a nosedive. How I went from academic bliss in sixth grade to nearly slitting my wrists in the seventh, I donít know. Everything tanked. I find it funny that I ended up in remedial (yes, thatís the word they used back then) English, yet went on to choose that as my college major. I earned decent grades in math all through grade school, until I hit middle school. Maybe it was the cello that interfered. The only time I could learn it in school was during math class. I guess I made a poor choice, choosing music over math.

Anyway, in my job, I have to use math. Itís basic stuff; addition, subtraction and multiplication. I have my own way of doing it, which makes it hard to figure out what my co-workers are thinking. They will pick a roundabout way of counting something, or subtracting something. I always worry we arenít going to end up with the right quantity. I remembered my times tables, and that pi is 3.1415 and a bunch of other numbers. But please donít ask me to add 62 and 29. My brain shuts off for several seconds, before I do it my own way: ďletís see,Ē I think to myself. ďSixty two plus ten, that makes seventy two, another ten makes eighty two, and nine more is, uh, ninety one. ď By the time I arrive at the answer, either my co-worker has already done the math or died of old age. Iím sorry, I really am. It would never occur to me to simply add 30 to 62 and then subtract one.

I donít even bother to balance my checkbook. I took two accounting classes in college, and did well in both of them. This was in the good old days, when accounting was just making the transition to being done on the computer. I did it by hand, searching for that elusive $50 that was causing my balance sheet to go off kilter. Iíd stay up late at the dining room table, looking, and cursing and finally erasing. Despite getting through accounting with better than average grades, my checkbook scares me. On good days, I write out checks to my various creditors, make a note of the check number, who I sent it to and for how much. On bad (i.e. normal days) I just write down how much I paid and to whom, and thatís it. Sometimes I subtract the amounts from the beginning balance (which I found out by checking it at the ATM or calling the bank) but sometimes I donít. A lot of times, I guess at my bank balance. Sometimes Iím horribly wrong and I have several overdraft charges that eat up my next paycheck. Other times, I figure Iím close to being broke and I have more than $200 in checking and itís the day before payday. How the hell did THAT happen? (That actually did happen recently, and instead of stimulating the economy, I did what any normal working person would do: stashed it away in my secret horde.)

Instead of buying a bunch of say, landscaping wall all at once, I buy a little at a time, in order not to end up with too much. I hope I never have to reupholster any furniture. No matter what, Iíll end up with enough to slipcover Canada.

Iíd like to be better at math, but Iím accepting the fact that it might not happen. Iíll probably file it away under stuff Iíd like to be better at, like horseback riding, piano, dancing and gymnastics. Iíll never forget that time I fell off the balance beam and didnít take gym again for eight years. That saved me from future injuries and public klutziness. However, I may never recover from the humiliation of Mrs. Kimmelís math class. When we graded our homework in class, we were required to call out how many we missed. You could always tell when I called out my score: three, five, two, four, ten, one, three Ö Having satisfied my math requirements, I called it quits with Fundamentals of Algebra 3 and 4. Thatís right, I never took geometry. Barbie was right. Math IS hard. And it gives me a headache.

Now, if youíll excuse me, I need to find my checkbook and make out a check to whoever it is I owe and for whatever amount I need to send them. Iíll send them a couple bucks extra to cover the late fees, which are based on a percentage of whatever my bill is if I donít send it before the 14th. A couple extra and weíll call it even. Or something like that.

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