A buddy of mine told me this story:
He was contracting some work out in Mechanicsville and had just finished measuring out whatever the hell it was he needed to measure out in these bedrooms. He was sitting at the kitchen table writing out these math equations, trying to figure out how much lumber he needed or floor-plan-divisions or some-such shit--I'm not clear what--when this little girl came in.
She got herself a juicebox, he said, and then came over and started watching him scribble out these equations and what-not. She was probably five or six, he figured.
And then she pointed at something on his notepad and said: "That's wrong."
And he was like: "What?" And he looked and she had her finger on an equation that read: "2 + 1 = 3."
And he said, "No, sweetie, that's not wrong."
And she was like: "Yeah-huh." And she actually picked up his pencil, crossed out his equation, and then, very carefully, wrote underneath it: "1 + 2 = 3." Then she put a star next to it.
"Cuz that's what Teacher does," she told him.
So he got curious and he asked her: "What about this?" And he wrote: "3 = 2 + 1."
And again, she scribbled it out. This time she drew a frowny-face next to it. And she told him, "If you keep getting these wrong, you'll hafta miss recess."
And he was looking around at the kitchen and kind of grinning, and he told her, "Don't think that's a concern for me--missing recess."
"You will!" It was almost a shout. "You'll miss recess!"
And he told me, "I don't know why this little girl shouting that I was going to miss recess pissed me off so much. But what I did was I stood up and I took three steps and I said, 'Three steps.' And then I turned around and took two steps and said, 'Two steps.' Then I took one more and said, 'One step.' And then I sat down and wrote it out again. '3 = 2 + 1.'
"And I was feeling all cocky and I said, 'See?'
"And the little bitch scribbled it out again! And she actually told me that now I was going to miss recess!
"And I'm like, 'But that's all that means! Three things--steps or apples or inches or whatever--is the same as two things with one more added.'
"But she was almost crying now and I knew I was just confusing her. She wasn't going to get it.
"And you know what I wanted to do was start writing it out in different ways. You know: instead of '1 + 2 = 3', I wanted to write it out long: 'One plus two equals three.' Or use scratches: '// / = ///.' Anything!
"But she was too angry and was all about 'what Teacher said,' and judging from how smart-ass she got about recess, she seemed to be really afraid of missing recess herself."
Love to you all.
The Ninth Circle