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Point of View: Humble Pie Day

Wed, 03/13/2024 - 17:19

Today is Pi Day, reminding me that I know nothing of mathematics. Though, because of Mr. Frame’s benign neglect in ninth grade, there was a time when I thought I did.

The next year, it became abundantly clear that I really did know nothing, certainly when it came to algebra. To this day, I break out in a cold sweat and mumble when mention is made of train A and train B, their differing speeds, and the distances they travel. My mother said not to worry, that it was generally true that failing algebra didn’t necessarily mean one would fail geometry, quite the opposite, in fact. It had been so with her, she said.

Wrong. I failed geometry too. “No planes, no pain . . . no proof, you goof,” I always say. I couldn’t be bothered to memorize theorems, nor, in later life, to read manuals.

I don’t mean to say I’m utterly innumerate — I can add and subtract, can multiply, do percentages, and can figure out tips in my head, though my brain, or at least the area of it that has to do with spatial relations, the parietal lobe, I imagine, has been in cognitive decline for years, some of which were spent writing The Star’s budget stories — without once having been gainsaid, as I recall.

It was with great reluctance, then, that an editor, who had become accustomed to my pleasing budget pies, passed off this seasonal chore to another member of the staff. Years ago that was — too many to count.

Still, one wants to retain what one can, and to that end Mary and I have begun playing backgammon again — the impetus for her being, I think, that I usually lose, though that’s all right with me. I’m happy when she’s happy. Simply setting up the board correctly has been a challenge, though we’ve taken out some basic backgammon books from the library to keep us honest.

Owing to my aforesaid affliction, I tend sometimes to miscount, invariably, it seems, to my advantage. Invariably, she’ll call me on it, and invariably I’ll reply that I’m too dumb to cheat before I eat some humble pie. 

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