Awaiting orientation for my new part-time job to begin, I am sitting across from a very young, very blonde girl. We smile politely, say hello, and then…a long and treacherous silence.
“So…are you in school?”
“Yes, I go to the university.”
“What are you taking?”
Oh fuck. Another conversational dead end. Like science you mean beakers, microscopes and phosphates?
Of course I don’t say this, I just smile. The hamster in the wheel inside my head has stopped to draw up some charts and graphs, and new and exciting avenues to commence with this painful conversation. Ideas are being tossed around, what are the kids into these days?
“You…taking classes over the summer?”
“I was thinking of taking calculus, but I figured I’d just work instead”.
The hamster in my head, who is wearing a cute little lab coat, (just to get into the scientific spirit), perks up.
“So…what’s the deal with calculus anyway?”
Sweet relief! Her attempt to explain the mathematical study of change made absolutely no sense to me, but it killed an awful lot of time. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I’m a gal that needs a calculator for basic addition and subtraction. In university, I took a computer course as a math equivalent, not just because I’m terrible at math, but because of the enormous sweat stains I would be left with after the first week of math class. Everyone would be diligently writing answers to equations and I would be burning up as if under a hot lamp being interrogated by the ‘bad cop’. Even knowing that it was a written on my school schedule gripped me with anxiety. After I asked another student what “whole nos” was, to which they replied “whole numbers“, with the “duh” implied in their tone, I dropped the class. When time came to get my science credits I took geology: the official choice for art students everywhere.
“She’ll be okay guys, someone just tried to explain math to her”.
The orientation began, and there was no need to fill the space with any more questions. But I’m left wondering about x’s and y’s, and what those equations are about, and what they are for. And it makes me a little bit sad that I’ll never truly understand.