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Posted: June 12, 2012 9:44 p.m.

Numbers and numerators

Recently, someone asked me the phone number of one of my daughters. I had to get out my cell phone and look up the number. I didn't know it by heart.

I was embarrassed at first, but when I thought about it, I realized that I only know five phone numbers by heart - my home phone, my cell phone, my husband's cell phone, my sister's home phone and the home phone number of one of my friends. And three of those numbers I knew before my husband or I had a cell phone. I had to look up my own cell phone number on my cell phone so many times that I finally listed it in my contacts. I now know it.

Twenty-five years ago I probably could remember 20 phone numbers. But I don't have to now. Cell phones remember all that stuff for me. Now if I could just figure out how to look up a phone number from the contacts listing in my phone while I am on the phone, I would be happy. Is it possible to do that? As it is, I tell someone to hang up, look up the phone number and then call them back. But then again, as someone reminded me at work, I don't know how to text.

I still remember my student ID from college and I graduated from UGA in 1963 and 1968. At my age, I am not planning to go back to school so I don't need to remember that any more. But I do.

I now can remember my Social Security number. I had to know the last four numbers to use the Xerox machine at Newton County High School. It wasn't much of a stretch to learn the other five numbers. My husband still can't remember his. Or my birthday or our wedding anniversary. I admit that I was sketchy about his birthday (the day only) until I had to pick up so many prescriptions for him I was forced to remember it.

Remembering numbers and math is not my strong point. I always use the excuse that I was an English teacher. The only math I'm good at is subtracting from 100. It is a necessity when grading papers.

Don't ask me to divide a check and bless waiters who will. But then again the cash registers are really computers and that makes it easy for the waiters. I always have to ask for help when figuring tips. However, my phone will do that for me too if I remember that it will. I usually don't.

When I first started teaching, there were no calculators. You had to beg or wait in line to use an adding machine. The old kind that gave you a tape with all the numbers and the total. Then you were on your own to do the division.

Then came calculators. They were very expensive, and even though it would have saved me hours and hours of time over the course of a school year, I refrained from buying one because of the cost. I finally did and guarded it with my life.

A calculator now is really cheap. You can buy a basic one for $10 to $15. I think I am on my second or third cheapie.

When I bought the calculator I now use, I purchased it because it had big numbers on the display and because my old one died. I took it home and tried to balance my bank account. I couldn't get the calculator to work. No matter what numbers I punched in, the display always had to same numbers. I couldn't understand it. So I took the calculator back to where I bought it and went to the customer service desk and explained my problem.

The lady who was waiting on me was very nice. She took the calculator from my hands and very neatly pulled the sticky see-through tape which had printed numbers on it off the computer's display. She quietly gave me the calculator back and I apologized.

I bet she had a good laugh on my account when I left.


Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at ptravis@covnews.com.

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