When I was in grade school, I loved math. Who didn’t like those multiplication flash cards? I would yell out the answer to six times eight, before the whole equation was even fully exposed. I was just like one of those annoying people you see on Jeopardy, who hit the buzzer before Alex Trebek is even done reading the question. If an adult were to ask me, “Millie, what is your favorite subject?” I would very firmly say, “Gym.” And then if they were to say, “Well, your favorite subject, after gym?” I would immediately answer, “Art.” And then if they were to continue with, “Your favorite subject after gym and art?” I would answer, “Math.”
And adults seemed impressed by this.
“Oh, she likes math. Did you hear that?”
But after having mastered the time tables, almost like a genius, came division.
They tried to make division look like it was going to be a lot of fun by drawing that big seven up on the chalk board, so we would think that we were going to play a game of hangman. For those of you who don’t know about the big seven, it was called long division. And for those of you who have not played hangman, I pity you.
But it wasn’t hangman. The seven was for division, which was multiplication, in reverse.
And I am not good at doing anything backwards, except ice skate.
I can barely back up a car. I can never find my way home. And God forbid, if I am ever asked to recite the alphabet from Z to A, by an officer on the side of the road. I will ask if I can do a cartwheel in a straight line instead. And the last time I did a cartwheel, it was not in a straight line. It was a complete disaster and it was accompanied with a torn muscle. But I would still score higher with a crooked cartwheel, then by trying to say the alphabet backwards, especially if I have been drinking.
Even after all of the brain pain, induced by all of that division, in sixth grade, I clung to my story.
“Math is my third favorite subject.”
And then came seventh grade. It was the killer year that unmercifully unleashed us into a world filled with fractions, percentages and story problems. with trains going in all kinds of directions at all different speeds and fractions and percentages were on board.
Seventh grade was also the year that art moved into first place. I no longer had a second favorite class and French took over third.
From there on out, math was nothing more to me than a four letter word.
You know how every once in awhile, there will be a story in the news about a doctor who has been practicing medicine for years and then the truth comes out that the guy was never really a doctor?
And you know how after a story like that breaks, people are up in arms and saying things like, “How did he do it? How did he fool so many people? How could he live with himself?”
Well, I can see how it could happen.
I have a friend who is in the same kind of a predicament. But this person is not impersonating a doctor. This person is impersonating somebody who likes numbers and she didn’t mean anything by it. All she did was make sure that her family had health insurance. And working in the factory got really fucking hot and sticky in the summer. And if there is one thing that this girl can’t stand, it is the heat.
Hold on. Before you judge me. I can explain the whole thing.
I attempted to escape working in the sauna, after ten years of hopping from department to department in steel toed boots, with tape measures, box cutters and sweat, hanging from my pockets, when I noticed a job that was posted on the bulletin board that said, POSITION: CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTITIVE.
What’s the harm?” I thought.
So, I did my very first impression. I walked in and I impersonated someone who could bullshit their way into a job. And I landed it.
I traded in my steel toed boots and my ponytail for pantyhose and lipstick. I quit buying used clothes at Goodwill and I headed straight for the clearance rack at Shopko.
Things were looking up.
I was just like Mary Tyler Moore. I was just like an albino Jefferson, with red hair. I was Ellie Mae Clampett, through and through.
But having my own gray cube with my own desk, name plate and set of earphones and being on the phone all day, was not as much fun as it must sound. To this day I have an aversion to answering any phone, in fear that someone will want me to walk them through fixing their vertical blind head rail and they will not understand my perfect instructions in the allotted amount of time and make the call wait time, go up.
But I was no quitter. I remained tied to those earphones for three long years. I gave out all kinds of misinformation. I took an insurmountable amount of orders. And I mailed missing small parts to people all over the world.
And then one February, ground hog morning, I walked into a meeting with a good cup of gas station coffee.
That is when we were told in groups of ten, that the customer service department was moving to Pennsylvania and all fifty of us were welcome to move to Pennsylvania too.
Or, we were shit out of luck.
And that is when I spotted another job on the bulletin board that said, POSITION: ACCOUNTS PAYABLE/PAYROLL, CLERK.
I know what you are thinking. “No Millie. That sounds like a lot of math and a lot of numbers.”
But you see, once a person gets used to some of the finer things in life, such as insurance, food and pedicures, it is hard to go back.
And three years of bullshitting on the telephone, paid off.
“Millie,” said the woman in a pant suit across the table from me. “Tell me what you think this job entails?”
I calmly locked eyes with her and said, “I guess it would be a lot like balancing a checkbook.”
And I was hired.
Okay, fine. It’s true. I failed to mention that I had never balanced anything in my life including any check books and that I rounded every payment up to the nearest dollar, to avoid overdraft fines.
But then, she didn’t ask, did she?
Fortunately for my well insured family, I was only in the accounts payable/payroll department for one year.
I say this, because my supervisor was on to me and the fact that I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. She heard me say that I couldn’t wait to see the check with a million dollars on it, because I couldn’t imagine how many zeros there must be, especially with the decimal point and all.
Luckily a friend called me from upstairs in the credit department and said, “Hey Millie, did you see the job on the board today?”
“There is a position open here.”
“Oh God. No thanks. Too much math.”
“You idiot. That’s what calculators are for. You should put in for it. It pays a lot more than payroll does.”
Being in payroll, I was privy to some classified information and damn it to hell, she was right.
Well, I thought, maybe it was best to keep on the move. To be a jack of all trades. To be one who knows a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but not a real lot of anything. It sounded like me, anyway.
And wouldn’t you know it? My charming personality and having a history of working in accounts payable and payroll, got me that job.
It was a great chapter. I could nod at charts and graphs all day long, like I knew what they meant. I could make phone calls and write letters for past due payments and reimbursements for wrongful deductions with ease. I wrote one letter that was so confusing, even to me, that we were sent a check for $28,000.00. I think it was easier for them to pay up, then to respond.
All was going very smoothly. I was just minding my own business and working away.
And then one day, I received a phone call. It was from downstairs, in the pricing department.
“Is this Millie Noe?”
“Yes.” I replied.
“Millie, did you see the pricing position on the board? I think you should apply for it.”
I was being head hunted from within my own company. The job was nothing but numbers. It was prices for God sake. The job paid a lot more money.
My boys liked those Michael Jordan tennis shoes with the pump up basket balls on them.
This is probably the kind of thing that happened to that doctor who wasn’t really a doctor. He probably, accidentally, ended up delivering a baby because some woman flagged him down on a deserted highway. After that, he was probably walking through a dark alley, when a drug deal went bad and he ended up pulling a bullet out of some poor guy who couldn’t go to the hospital because he was a gangster. Then he probably started stitching people up and prescribing meds, like nobody’s business, just for the hell of it. And before he knew it, he was performing surgeries. And once you make the kind of money that a surgeon makes, it’s hard to go back to delivering babies.
It is a slippery slope.
I took the pricing job.
I have been in the position for nearly ten years now and I have been hanging on by the skin of my teeth since day one.
I remember one Sunday morning, when I was just a kid. I was sitting in the pew with my whole family and there was going to be some kind of a survey for the adults to fill out.
My dad volunteered to help pass the papers and the pencils. He was good at that sort of thing, because, he was a teacher.
I heard a ping behind me. Then I heard another ping and then the unmistakable sound of many pings and many pongs and many pencils rolling all over the floor.
I turned around to see what the hell was going on.
It was my dad. He was having a time with all those pencils.
Every time he dropped a pencil or two, he would lean over to pick them up and three or four more would spill out of another pocket. This scene went on for days.
And now it seems that it is my bad pencil day.
You see, pricing can be a complicated situation and one little error can cause many pencils to fall out of your pockets.
I fix one problem and that causes three more problems. I fix those three problems and then there are nine new ones. I fix those nine new ones and suddenly there are twenty-seven calamities, that all need fixing.
And there are formulas.
The only thing I understand in this one is the F U. But then, they say that I am wrong about that too.
Everything that I come into contact with is an equation or a formula with triple parenthesis, and percentages with three decimals and division with fractions and there are margins and reciprocals and pesos and centimeters and inches and we have many websites and a new system is coming our way and there are story problems with trains in them that are carrying percentages with fractions and they are all somehow connected to each other and they are all going every which way and they are all about to crash.
What I am trying to say is, I do believe that this mathematical imposter, is about to be discovered.
Please have a little mercy on the woman with the red hair, who’s story is about to go viral.
If you have to tweet something about her, try to tweet something nice.
Positive is good.
You see, all she ever wanted was insurance, pedicures and those Michael Jordan tennis shoes for her boys.
It could happen to anybody.
It could happen to you.
And the next time you see your doctor, don’t necessarily trust all that bull shit hanging on his walls.