Something unsettling happened the other evening after dinner as we were sitting under the gazebo in the back yard having a cup of tea. We were discussing the birthday party we’d thrown the day before for our little Yorkie who turned nine.
Now, before you get all harsh and judgey because we threw a birthday party for our dog, keep in mind that under current physical distancing rules and lock-down, we’re all getting a bit desperate and crazy when it comes to excuses to socialize. Our bubble is pretty small and we’re working it the best we can. So we invited our verified safe friends and neighbours (two couples) and their two dogs over for refreshments and, well, more refreshments. It was great fun.
Anyway . . . as we were discussing the excitement of the previous evening, my honey and I tried to calculate the age of our dog in ‘people years’. You know the equation: one dog year equals seven people years or something like that. If Sassy is nine years old, then she must be . . . how many years is that? 9 x 7 = ??? We were stumped. Is it 72? Is it 54? No, it has to be more than that? We started counting back from 9 x 10 = 90, right? It took us several very long minutes to agree that the correct and final answer was 63. And it was a lot of work.
My husband is supposed to be the numbers guy in our family. I’m the word wizard. Between the two of us, we muddle through. When I can’t count on him to provide a quick and accurate answer for basic multiplication, then we have a serious problem. He made a very successful career out of being able to accurately estimate the real cost of hundreds of millions of dollars in huge construction projects in his head, with uncanny accuracy. I’m a known disaster at anything math-related but I can spell just about any word accurately and pick up grammatical errors unflinchingly, much to the annoyance of my husband.
There’s a reason baby boomers were drilled, and drilled, and drilled again in multiplication tables in school. In the days before pocket calculators and smartphones, we needed to know these things to get us through life. We even learned how to use a slide-rule. Basic math is a basic life skill. In fact, educators are planning to reintroduce this rote type of learning to grade-schoolers as the value of knowing these things is becoming increasingly more evident. It shocks boomers that young people today don’t know how to make or count change because they didn’t learn ‘numbers’ the way we did.
Does the slippage of my husband’s skill with numbers mean I’m now doomed to soon be unable to spell or pronounce words correctly? We have counted on each other to offset our respective weaknesses. That’s what togetherness is about. The future is looking scary indeed. I suppose we could have easily Googled the answer to what is 9 x 7 but as boomers, that wasn’t our natural default. We started counting our fingers and toes.
Perhaps I should make up some flashcards just like Miss McArthur and Mrs. Thompson used when I was in grade one and two. I’d have to verify the answers on Google though to make sure they were correct before I inked them in. Sheesh! Two apples plus one apple equals three apples. Maybe I can blame our brain fog on the pandemic. That covers a lot of excuses for why the world is falling apart around us.
Whatever the reason for our lapse, it’s obvious we need to sharpen our math skills. Or did that information just evacuate our brain cells to make room for more unwelcome and unneeded COVID statistics which are overwhelming and depressing? Maybe, I’ll just keep our little brain burp a secret tucked away with the rest of our lapses and hope no one will notice. After all, our entire generation is losing brain cells and the younger generation wouldn’t even notice our mathematical errors because they can’t calculate in their heads anyway. We’ll just write their inheritance cheques in cursive and they’ll have no idea what the numbers mean. Just like the rest of us.