!!!Things That REALLY Piss Me Off
(In pursuit of higher mathematics) 
​​There is probably no one reading this who has not had the experience multiple times. I’ve just bought some groceries at one of the local supermarkets and am in the process of paying at one of the checkout stations. 

“That’s $16.61, sir, “says the cashier says very politely. 

So I pull a twenty from my pocket, but a second or two before I actually hand it to the cashier he sees it in my hand and punches twenty dollars into the register which instantly computes and shows on the screen $3.39 as the correct change to be returned to me. But then I remember that I have some singles and a ton of change in my pocket.

“Just a second,” I say to the clerk. “Let me get rid of some of my change.”

So I reach into my pocket and pull out one, one dollar bill and a fist full of change from which I extract sixty one cents in the form of two quarters, a dime and one penny.

“Here you go,” I say to the young clerk as I hand over the additional $1.61.

He tentatively extends his hand to my offering, and I then place the additional money into it. You could actually see the glaze form over his eyes, and I knew he had no more idea what to do with that $1.61 than how to arm a nuclear warhead or prepare Peking duck. His hand didn’t move, and his eyes locked onto mine with a totally blank look on his face. I might just as well have asked him to calculate the volume and weight of all the methane gas on one of Jupiter’s moons! Being the keen observer that I am, I sensed that he must have missed school the day they taught “making change”, so I stepped in to get the assist. “

“Keep the twenty,” I instructed. “I just gave you an additional dollar and sixty one cents, so you just need to give me back a five dollar bill. Okay?”

No, it definitely was not okay. He said nothing and continued looking back and forth between me and the money in his hand. So I tried it another way. 

“Okay. I owe you sixteen dollars and sixty one cents. Right? I already gave you a twenty dollar bill and then another $1.16 which means I gave you a total of $21.16. Now, if you subtract the amount of my bill, $16.61, from that $21.16, you get an even $5.00 which is what you owe me. Okay?” I added with a reassuring smile. Seemed pretty straight forward to me! 

As was the case with my first attempt, it was still definitely not okay, and then without another word he pushed the call button that activates a light above the register which puts a manager on notice of an occurring “MAYDAY” situation. So for the next minute or two the kid and I just stood there under the blinking light, him more than a little uncomfortably and me more than a bit impatiently, awaiting the arrival of a higher authority to sort things out. I should probably also add that the two  or three folks in line behind me didn’t seem all too happy about what was taking place and the resultant delay of game which ensued.

By the time the manager finally arrived the kid looked like he had been struggling with the problem of how to split the atom using only a knife and fork. He was so confused that he couldn’t explain the problem to the manager, so I jumped in with a brief explanation which the manager readily understood and accepted without hesitation. Then, at the direction of the manager, the clerk pulled from the register and handed me the five dollars that was owed to me. I really wanted to say something to the kid along the lines of, “You dumb fuck,” but I showed a lot of restraint and class by not doing so. (I’m known for that….restraint, I mean!) Instead I said thank you to the manager who in return gave me a friendly and knowing smile along with a slight roll of the eyes which seemed intended to both acknowledge and apologize for the cashier’s lack of higher math skills.  

I can see it now. A hundred or so years down the road, people will be so reliant on calculators and computers to solve all math problems, even minor ones, that when a power outage occurs merchants will either need to shut down their stores until power is restored or have their great grandmothers come in for a few hours to show them how to make change! So I ask you….is technology making us smarter or dumber?

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