by Father Zorro
Is a nose an integer?
|THE TERROR OF INTEGERS
I learned how to add and subtract, multiply and divide. I learned how to handle money. I even learned fractions and percentages. I was happy and confident in my number knowledge. Then one day they tried to teach me that a number was not a number. A number was an integer.
We were to learn the “New Math”. It had something to do with winning the cold war and vanquishing the commies to hell.
They installed TV’s in our classrooms. TV? They were trying to stop us from watching TV and now they were making us watch it. I understood immediately this would not be the TV I wanted to watch. This would be TV under adult supervision. This would not be The Untouchables or 77 Sunset Strip. This would be Integer TV. I was right about the TV and never right about the integers. I never understood them and they never understood me. I had teachers, tutors and extra classes but they failed to make the slightest dent in my integer free brain. A tutor gave me extra instruction. He pointed to a number and said,
“This is an integer.” He pointed to the letter N and said,
“This could be an integer.” Finally he pointed to his nose and said,
“This is not an integer, usually.”
The TVs did not help either. I had the sneaking suspicion we were watching TV because the nuns were as ignorant as we were in regards to integers. The show came on and the nun told us we were on our honor and left the room. On your honor from a nun means she is just outside the door listening in. Some of us goofed off and did not pay attention. After the show she came in and gave us stuff about not goofing off and paying attention. The nun kept going on about how poorly we were doing and how we would never amount to anything. Then she made the fatal mistake of asking, in her anger,
“Who doesn’t want to learn this? Who thinks they don’t need this?”
The ceiling became a magnet. My hand became iron. Up it went. Hey, toro, here’s the red cape. I was just trying to be honest and spur a forthright and enlightening discussion about the necessity and utility of these new integer things. The nun did not see it that way. Not at all. She saw it that I was wrong, that I was incorrigible, disruptive, lazy and not working up to my full potential. Integers were god’s gift to me and I was abusing them. Abuse of integers was a mortal sin and a capital offense. It took the nun several days to lighten up on me and go after someone else who was abusing god and not working up to his full potential.
I do not remember the rest of the class. That day was the only one that made an impression on me. It made an impression on me because I raised my hand, so the question becomes why I raised my hand. Partly the bravado of youth, but beyond that I truly did not want to learn the new math and integers. Young as I was, I knew I did not have the head for it and I was not going to sit still. People that have the head for it and sit still do not understand this in others, whether it is integers or anything else. Just as I do not understand integers they do not understand that different does not mean wrong. Somewhere in my integer addled brain I naively thought maybe I would be excused for my honesty or my total lack of comprehension. I was not reprieved. There was no commutation of my sentence. I was condemned. So I mentally put my head down, hunched my shoulders and tried to disappear. It must have worked because the rest of the class is gone from my memory. I spent the time profitably by reading paperbacks hidden behind my textbook.
In my life since then I have never encountered a single integer. Not once, ever, never. They were wrong about integers. They were wrong about TV. But most of all they were wrong about me being wrong. And about that I have always been right.