Friday, August 2, 2013

I’m no Einstein

I can’t do math. That’s it – end of discussion.

I write stuff - I can do that. And I can knit. And I can have babies. And I can organize a house of four to be out the door on time.
But I can’t, don’t, won’t do math. It makes me cry.

My mathematical affliction would make Einstein cry, as well.

As a 40-something (who’s counting?) mother of two, you’d think I would have matured and progressed, mathematically speaking, from the practices of an elementary kid.

Not at all.

My problems can be an embarrassment, but I manage to hide it well. Only those close to me know of my ailment. They understand and are patient. Having a husband whose middle name should legally be changed to ‘Math’ comes in handy; I just ask him stuff. I wonder if he’s related to Einstein. In fact, anyone who can do math makes me wonder of if they’re related to the genius.

When out-and-about sans the math genius, I resort to writing a problem in long-hand on an old receipt from my purse while adding and subtracting on my fingers. I forget that my simple-for-Lisa cell phone has a calculator. But even if I did remember, I would get too flustered to use it. I’m not very up on technology. I have to be in a calm, serene environment for something like that to work.

And then despite my highly academic problem-solving techniques, I usually call my husband for assistance. On the rare time he hasn’t been available, I have hid in the bathroom of the store trying to figure out how many eggs are needed for a recipe I am tripling. Trying to concentrate on my techniques in a busy grocery store aisle is impossible. Plus, I couldn’t very well let anyone see my intricate math process, nor could I ask a complete stranger what 12 multiplied by 3 was, now could I?

Like it was yesterday, I remember spending countless nights at the kitchen table crying over my math homework. I get sick to my stomach remembering. Somehow I struggled through and graduated grade 12, but only by the skin of my teeth when it came to math. I took the most remedial courses I could get into – just to get by. But put me in an accelerated English class and I was a wiz. Go figure.

And don’t get me started on helping my own kids with their math homework. I was supportive and all-knowing and as helpful as I could be through their elementary years, but whenever they mentioned they had math for homework, I dove for the Immodium. Luckily for all of us, my math-lacking-gene wasn’t passed on to them, and we/they got by. Usually we had to wait for ‘dad to get home.’

Back in the day, places like McDonald’s didn’t have electronic or computerized equipment – even in the early 80’s. Teens like my husband whose first job was at the golden arches, had to – GASP – manually write out and tally each customer’s order - with tax and everything! And then (and this part makes me extra nauseous just thinking about it), they would have to count back change! “And two makes four, and three makes six, and ten makes eight.” Blech!

I could have never worked at McDonald’s in the early 80’s – I would have been fired after the first five minutes.
But by the late 80’s, the world was starting to change. My first job, as well, was at the golden arches and technology was surfacing. They had electronic tills that not only calculated the tax for me, but also tallied the amount of change I had to give back to the customer. Luckily I was born when I was because if I had been born a few years earlier and had to manually calculate all that, I would never have been employed. Even in later years when applying for retail jobs, I ensured that not only was the till electronic or computerized (and not too difficult to operate), but also that I didn’t have to count-back change; “Sorry, I don’t count-back change – and that’s just the way it is.” Luckily for me, I always lucked-out and was lucky enough to fall into jobs that luckily fit all my specifications. You can’t put a price on luck (I wouldn’t be able to apply tax to the price of luck, anyways).
Now I work in an office. It’s much easier.

So somehow I get by. Somehow.

We have an old McDonald’s order slip from non-technology-days-gone-by. When I see it, I cringe at what might have been – I never would have survived working there, or anywhere, if I had to resort to using that. The Math Genius saved it as a memento, and after finding it in storage a few years ago, it’s been hanging on a cork board ever since. Someone told me I should frame such a piece of history. I get preserving history and all that, but why hang something in my house that makes my stomach turn at the thought of what might have been?
So these days, I somehow get by - somehow.

I rely on pen and paper, the math whiz at my house, and a solar calculator. I try to use the one on my computer, but I always mess it up. I sort of get-by with the technological and computerized gizmos made for people like me, but even stuff like that sends me into a state of intestinal spasm.

I feel bad for Albert Einstein. After all the ground-breaking work he did all those years ago, all those bad-hair days, and people like me can’t appreciate math – don’t get math. He’d be upset.

If he were around, I’d buy him a Big Mac, large fries and a Coke to make up for it. But if the power was out and the tills didn’t work, and the poor clerk who is like me couldn’t add our order because she just DOESN’T do math (never mind my husband being unavailable to assist), I’d make poor old Albert do it.

And then steal some of his fries.


  1. Sales tax gets me every time. I think I have the proper amount calculated in my head (ha!), but I'm always off. Way off. You're not alone in your affliction, Lisa.

    1. Ack! YES! Sales tax - don't get me started on that one! I always add at least 20 dollars to whatever I'm buying, then I know I should have it covered - if I can add on 20 dollars, that is :) Thanks for reading - Lisa :)

  2. I hear you Lisa. Avoidance is the name of the game. Good thing we can revel in words.

    1. I hear you, Jodie. Avoid numbers at all cost - stick with words. I like them better. Thanks for reading! Lisa

  3. Believe it or not Albert Einstein would understand better than you think. He had learning disabilities and was called dumb and stupid by his teachers. Luckily his parents believed in him.

    1. Good words of advice, Pat. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and I like to think that the lacking in one area only enhances other areas. Thanks for reading! Lisa