Math are hard?
Posted at 2:15 PM

I'm no mathematician, though I did enjoy some math classes in school. I'm a small-scale user of arithmetic, whether it's pronounced ah-rith-muh-tik or ar-rith-maah-tik. Math is part of my job, as it is for anyone who covers sports for a living. Simple for the most part and when it gets beyond that, I trust a calculator to figure out the ERA of an ace pitcher.

But there are times when I simply wonder if the world just doesn't know how to add or subtract anymore.

That's life. But I also don't dig it when people get overly emotional about something as stoic as math. Does it get any clearer than 10 minus 6.5 is 3.5?

>> Two nights ago, I was in the drive-thru at Jack in the Box (McCully). It was late, around 2 a.m., and I was on the way home after the gym. I ordered a salad and hash browns. (I'd been lusting after hash browns, and JITB's version are mini-bites, very crusty and heavy on calories. But that's another story.) The change I got back from the employee was one dollar short and I pointed this out when he returned with part of my order. He was nice and I was content. Everybody makes a mistake now and then.

>> Last night, I'm at the gym playing pickup basketball. Trying to, anyway. We're in the middle of a game when someone asks for the score. Only one guy knew it. He's a local businessman, works with numbers all the time. Also the oldest of us hoopsters on the court. In other words, I trust him. He says it's 12-11. Immediately, the other guy who asked for the score, said, "No way! Bulls**t! That score is wrong!"

See, this is one of my pet peeves. If you ask for the score, obviously, you don't really know it. Or, you have a guess in your brain, and if the answer you get is not close enough, you'll say stupid things.

So this guy, Mr. Hotheadhotshot, kept questioning the score. I was quiet. Then I was not. I said, if you know the score, why are you asking? He got offended, which is sad. I didn't mean to hurt his feelings. So we started to play and he kept mouthing off about how the score is bulls**t. I said to him again, if you know the score, just tell us. Don't ask for a score and then tell somebody that he's lying.

But he kept whining and grumbling, we kept playing and that was that. Or so I thought. After the game, I went to my businessman friend and told him about my pet peeve, and he agreed. Meanwhile, Mr. Hotheadhotshot was sitting across the floor and started yakking at me. "Keep talking, keep talking!" he blabbed for a good 10 seconds.

Wow. So I'm not allowed to talk with my teammate/friend? Talk about silly, childish behavior. I'm not sure if this was about his math skills, his ego or both. He scored a lot of points in that game and his team lost. Is that what set him off? Or does he just have a hard time trusting someone who knows how to count? I didn't know the score, didn't care. I was there to sweat and burn some flab. If someone keeps score, I trust him. Or her.

Whatever the case, I let it go. It's true about all the brain research done in the U.S. and England: the male brain is still physiologically forming until around age 25 or 26. This fact explains a lot of the ineptitude we men show in decision-making at a young age. (It doesn't explain the dumbfounded ways of older guys, but again, that's another story.) Let's just say Mr. Hotheadhotshot is probably closer to 20 than he is 30.

Guys who come to the gym or the park and act like bullies on an elementary school playground -- when they're losing -- are just a classic case of what John Wooden once said: "Winning builds character. Losing reveals it."

So there, two cases of math making a difference in basically mundane situations. But there's more.

>> I just got back from Subway (Moiliili). I knew there might be a problem when the sandwich artist asked me, "What kind of cheese?" and I said, cheddar.

Then she said, "American."

And I said, "Cheddar" again.

She proceeded to put American cheese on my footlong black forest ham. I let it go. I'm gracious that way. She was quite alert, telling a customer who had just entered the shop to please close the door. It was windy and the door was slightly open.

So I got the sandwich only, which is 6 bucks and tax. I handed her a $10 bill. She gave me back 2 bucks and change, and walked off. I did a double and triple take. Is this right? Am I getting short-changed again?

I asked the second employee, the younger one, to ask my sandwich artist to return to my end of the counter. I asked her to give me the right change and she protested. Really. She said, no, you put the other dollar in your pocket, pointing to my right pocket. My wallet was still on the counter next to the mountain of chocolate cookies. The two $1 bills she handed me were still in my left hand. I hadn't moved.

It was ridiculous. I said, "I don't steal money," and pulled my right pocket out. Nothing.

Finally, she gave me that dollar. No apology, just walked away to the next customer.

I started walking out, and the urge to tell her that her service sucked almost overwhelmed me. But I kept walking to the door and on to my car on a beautiful, sunny, breezy afternoon. The rain was finally gone after three days of Noah's ark weather.

But gosh, darn it, I left that door slightly open back at Subway. I didn't even think about it. But I bet she did.

All in all, no, I don't think fast-food workers are "skimming" customers 1 dollar at a time. I worked at Burger King back in the day (that would be roughly 100 days in 1982) and it was nonstop motion and burned forearms (dripping oil off the burgers I had to reheat in the microwave) and stanky grease oil.

But I would have to say, some things are timeless. "Thank you." "I'm sorry." That means more to a customer who has been accused of stealing than the dollar that was missing.

>> The one place I was at today that took some time was Kinko's. The service was excellent. One printer jammed, and a nice young lady got it fixed, explained to customers what happened and that they would get reimbursed. I also had to make dozens of copies of basketball registration forms, had a small problem when I got 20 or 30 blanks (gotta watch for the green light before hitting "START"), and I got reimbursed for that, too.

The counter clerk was also very professional. And fast.

So the tally here is: Jack in the Box, occasional error, nice guys; Subway, occasional error, crappy service; Kinko's, equipment is old, but mostly functional, and service is magnifique!

Previous Article: Just fine without the turkey
Next Article: RIP Mike Wallace