I have made it no secret that Math (Algebra in particular) is NOT my best subject. I did poorly in my high school algebra classes. Yes, I did pass the college Algebra classes I had to take, but it was harder than I could have imagined. It didn’t help that I hadn’t looked at an algebra problem in almost 30 years.
Luckily, my oldest son only needed my help a few times with his math stuff when he was in school. My middle son, on the other hand, brought home some really tough stuff from his summer school class last month. I really struggled to help him. I had my college books, my college notes, store bought aids, and even a friend who is good at math all at my disposal, but nothing really helped. He squeaked by … just barely.
I want to go on record stating that I never really had a problem with basic math. Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division and other basics like finding percentages, figuring out mileage, counting money and making change and balancing checkbooks were all things I did well with. Those basic things are still taught in school today, yet it doesn’t seem to be something people are retaining.
Case in Point:
Normally, before work I would make a pot of coffee and bring a cup with me in the car on my way in. Today, I forgot to make some, so I drove through the local Tim Horton’s to get one. Most of the time, I would just hand the person at the window my debit card and the transaction would be complete. Today that was not the case.
They are usually pretty quick at Timmy’s, but something seemed to be slowing the line today. There were two cars ahead of me. I saw them pass an iced coffee to the first car and they drove off. The car in front of me tendered their money and the wait began. Almost five minutes later, a hand reached out with their change and then passed out a small coffee cup.
I wondered if the customer was waiting because they had to brew a new pot of coffee. Or maybe they were changing cashiers and they were switching out the till. It just seemed weird that it took that long to get a cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate for that matter.) When I got the the window, things became clear.
It was obvious that the gal at the window was a new employee and in training. She was having a discussion with the manager before she even opened the window. Directly to her right was my coffee. It was ready to be handed to me as soon as the money changed hands. I was paying cash, so it shouldn’t be too difficult, right?? Wrong.
When she finally opened the window, she told me that I owed $2.85. I order the same thing every time, so I had $3.00 ready and handed it to her. She typed into the register what I handed her and she placed the three $1 bills in the tray with the others and stopped. She stood staring at the till.
My change was 15 cents. For some reason this seemed to stump that gal at the window. She looked at the till, then at her manager. The window was open, so I could hear their conversation. The manager said, “He gave you three dollars. You owe him 15 cents.” She stood there looking stumped. The manager pointed to each one of the compartments at the bottom of the drawer saying, “There you have 25, 10, 5 and 1.”
Is real money such a new thing to this gal? Has she never seen a dime before? The whole thing was like something out of the Twilight Zone! The manager literally told her “give him a dime and a nickel.” She could have given me a dime and five pennies, two nickels and five pennies, three nickels, or 15 pennies – I didn’t even care if I got my change! Honestly, I would have drove off without the change if they had handed me the coffee!
Finally, this gal delicately grabbed a dime and a nickel and handed it to me with my receipt. She told me to have a good day and stared at me. She obviously wondered why I hadn’t left yet. Her manager said, “I’m sure he would like the coffee he just ordered.” I’m not sure how much longer she stared at me, but eventually, the manager grabbed my coffee and handed it to her and she finally passed it out the window to me.
As I drove off, I looked at the 4 cars that were behind me wondering how much longer each of them would have to wait. I also wondered what kind of grades this 30 something year old gal got in high school math class ….