I am having one of those days where it’s tempting to put one’s head on the keyboard and give it a saline bath. Ever had one of those? Sadly, I have them often. Today’s little sorrow-fest was brought about by mathematics, but made bearable through faith. Let me explain.
I recently vacationed in paradise and flew the sometimes unfriendly skies to get there. (Flying isn’t as much fun as it used to be. The unidentifiable chicken dish has been down-sized to a pretzel.) In the process of harvesting kernels to use (like this one), I was curious about just how many US citizens travel internationally, anyhoo.
For the record, in 2009, just over 308 million folks were citizens of this fair country. And 38,719,291 used air traffic to travel internationally. Obviously, lots of folks drove or took a boat/ship to travel internationally, so this number is not a perfect representation of international travel by US citizens. But it is a really big, freaking number so I’m just going to go with it.
All was going so well. And then I went and did it. I tried to figure out a percentage.
I am not stupid. There actually are 3 digits in my IQ and when well-rested, I can be a fairly cogent guest at a dinner party. But percentages whip my sorry ass on just about every occasion. To wit, I am a fantastic tipper because 20% is so much more simple to figure than 15%. Being pathetic about percentages is actually quite costly.
Like during standardized tests when I had to use a convoluted system of illogical deduction to eliminate answers instead of just figuring the answer. Because spending ten minutes and using all my digits was more effective and less likely to create a migraine than trying to figure out the correct answer.
So you might be wondering how such a travesty of educational justice came about. Simple. I caught a cold.
I was one of those brainiac kids who understood things before the rest of the pack. Teachers got used to being able to hand me a sheet and do little instruction past “write your name on the line.” But one year, I managed to catch every virus making the rounds. When I returned from one particularily vicious one, my class had learned and all but the slowest corn cob had mastered percentages. I had no idea. And I was more than a bit freaked out that I had no idea.
Which left asking my parents for help. Mom was busy and foisted me off on Dad. Not a terrible idea seeing as how my dad was a National Merit Scholar and can do complex mathematical equations in his head. But he is not a patient man and his idea of a good time right then didn’t include teaching a boobering kiddo percentages.
I’ve blocked most of the memory but I seem to recall he banged his fist on the table at least once and I finally just turned the damn worksheet covered in dried tear stains rather than pencil marks.
Yep. Figuring percentages makes me twitchy to this day. So the fact that I was sitting here at my desk trying to figure out *38,719,291 is what percentage of 308 million* just about made my head explode. First I tried coffee. Even reheated coffee sometimes makes things better, but not this time. So then I applied a Lindt chocolate. I finally resorted to a bowl of Fritos to get me through. About half way through the Fritos, it didn’t feel like I would ever figure out the freaking answer.
Then here comes my dearest youngest child. His world was crumbling due to the Wii game not loading properly.
“Mama. Can you please make my game work?”
“Aw, um, yeah. Can you give me a minute?”
“Please mama. Please –” and then he spied the Fritos.
He grabbed up a handful and then began the quick shuffle of Frito from hand to mouth. Except he dropped one. A really long and lovely Frito. Without pausing a beat, he bent over, retrieved the Frito, and squinting, blew a long puff of air at it.
I’m not sure when we taught our kiddos the 30-second rule but we must be good teachers.
Because the basis of the 30-second rule is believing that whatever touched the food item isn’t so terrible that quickly retrieving the food stuff and then blowing on it will negate any possible contamination.
It is an example of faith: whatever it is, it can’t be that bad.
You have to have faith in yourself – that you will find your way through whatever the challenge. That the challenge isn’t so bad that you can’t survive it. Just blow off whatever scary thing you’ve come into contact and keep going.
And, in case you are curious, it is 12.5% – which isn’t very many folks traveling to Jamaica or anywhere else.