Back in May, when I went to upstate New York with my father to visit our church's former pastor, we pulled over at one of those roadside rest stops and got ourselves some fast food. Dad went over to the counter for Nathan's hot dogs, but upon seeing their limited menu and over-expensive dogs, I made a face and lumbered over to the Burger King counter. The girl behind the counter proved unable to do math in her head. This was the first time I had seen innumeracy up close-- and at a cash register, no less.
First, the girl rang up the transaction incorrectly. The meal was $14.10, and I had given her a 20-dollar bill, plus a dime, but she rang it up as if I had given her a fifty. I had intended to make life easier for her by allowing her to give me back an even six dollars in change. Instead, the addition of the dime freaked her out, apparently compounding the stress of her initial twenty/fifty mistake.
Unable to figure out what to do, the girl left the register and retreated to some secluded spot in the back. I caught a glimpse of her, pen in hand, trying to work out the math while I waited... and waited. Eventually, she came back, showing me her chicken scrawl and asking me whether this was right-- i.e., that she owed me six dollars. I nodded, simultaneously astounded and annoyed, and she gave me the proper change.
The total time I waited after my food had arrived on a tray? At least five minutes. I still shake my head in wonder when I think that this girl was supposed to be a cashier.
Note to the innumerate: don't handle money if you can't do the arithmetic. You're better off having a friend or proxy help you.
See the receipt below, which I kept for sentimental reasons:
The second scrap of paper was something I found only a few minutes ago. In digging through my mother's personal effects, I found this little note, which she must have written years ago, and which speaks volumes about her assessment of my father's intelligence and common sense:
The above rings especially true these days. I won't say more, except to note how much I miss Mom.