I’m sure I was not alone a while back, feeling soothed upon hearing a radio show which focussed on the seemingly mundane topic of washing clothes and hanging them out to dry. Actually, I know I wasn’t – the host kept saying that they had a huge response. There were people out there like me, comforted by the news that there were others who felt the need to hang things properly.
And ‘properly’ doesn’t just mean putting the pegs in the right places. It means putting all the socks together, the towels alongside each other, the nappies in one section, and Small Z’s endless tiny trousers in another. The people that did manage to get through to the announcer about this topic all sounded somewhat relieved that there were other freaks out there just like them. You would think with my need for order, I would have relished things like mathematics, but that doesn’t seem to add up…
At school, I was hopeless at all that algebra and trigonometry stuff. I was so bad that by Year 11 I was put in a maths class that focussed on ‘everyday’ maths. Things like taxes and banking. It was universally referred to as ‘Vegie Maths’ – not anything to do with grocery shopping, but in reference to the vegetable-brained people that took the class. Since that time, and particularly in the last five years or so, I have realised that I CAN do maths – but in a different way.
Sometimes it involves counting on my fingers, other times it’s just about approaching the problem in a more lateral way. I am incapable of looking at someone’s birthdate and immediately knowing how old they are. I am incapable of looking at how many kilometres have elapsed on the car and knowing immediately how much petrol is left (the gauge is buggered).
But whereas I used to just give up and not bother trying to work it out, now I have a go, and can usually do it. In the latter case I think to myself… we get about eight kilometres to a litre, the car holds 70 litres. Seven eights are…well..five eights are 40, six eights are 48, so seven eights must be (adds two to make 50, then adds six) fifty six. Add a zero. The car will run out of petrol at 560km…
Equation: the process of equating one thing with another
And what led me to begin this waffle? The thought of the small equations that fire off throughout my day. Putting Small Z in her chair to eat some soup with me. And then giving her a cold roast potato, pouring myself a cup of tea, and beginning to read the newspaper. I looked up. The potato had been eaten. I gave her another. She began playing with it, squashing it into the table and into M’s multihull magazine, and dropping bits on the freshly swept floor.
However. I calculated that whatever kind of mess she made sitting in the chair, it would only take me three intensive minutes to clean it up. Were three intensive minutes of cleaning worth ten minutes, two cups of tea, and reading the paper? Hell yeah! I gave her another potato. And did not flinch when she began dismantling an envelope with a plastic panel which made entertaining crunchy sounds. It was an excellent trade-off.