Thursday, July 19, 2012

Some thoughts on math, or why I'll never be an efficient waitress

My time in France has included two stints as a waitress, once in Paris, and once in Alba. In both places, the owners were my dear friends, and in both places, they teased me mercilessly about how slow I was at doing the checks, and how often I made mistakes.

They were right, and I was terrible, but I would like to take this opportunity to say that my problem was not mathematical, it was synesthetical.

People accept as a general truth that a nice thing about numbers is their universality.
And I am here to tell you, friends: that is one cruel misstatement of reality.

As a general rule, there's little difference in my head between French and English:
In both I can dream, swear, ruminate, babytalk, argue, bake, bargain, joke, gossip, and tease.

But hell if I can do math.

As long as I live, I will never be able get my head around the idea that
seven times eight (pictured up top)
and sept fois huit (pictured below)
both come out to 56.
How is that possible??
It will never, ever make sense to me.

Right there is the real reason I am self-employed: I can take all the time I need to make sure that cinquante-six and fifty-six really are the same thing. As you can see from the calculations pictured above, I'm still dubious.

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