## Friday, August 5, 2011

### Sam Tyner, Math Genius. Apparently.

So I went to a hardware store for some weather-stripping because my door isn't the same shape as its frame and "having it closed" was basically the same as "having it open." I went to the register to pay for my stuff.

The cashier told me my total was \$7.26 so I gave her a \$20 bill. After she had asked me for my phone number for some reason, I realized I had exact change.

I might as well have told a dog to read me the newspaper. She told me she had already hit the "\$20 button" on the register. We had passed the point of no return.

So now there were two stacks of money on the counter: my \$7.26 to pay for my \$7.26 purchase, and the change the computer had told her to give me from my \$20. I wasn't really annoyed at this point, because I still had a thorough grasp of my lack of proficiency with anything involving numbers. I'm totally freakin' awesometaculariffic with words, but as soon as you put numbers in anything, my brain just shuts off. So I believe that most anyone can grasp any mathematical concept that I can, so maybe she just didn't understand what I was saying.

Figuring this was the kind of arithmetic they prime kindergarteners on, I asked again. I would also like to point out that this was a white, American, English-speaking lady. So there are no cultural or language barriers to work around, which is a shame because that would be completely excusable. But still annoying.

She looked at the exact change from my pocket sitting next to the change that she had given me from the twenty dollar bill and told me there was \$15 on the counter.

How do you not understand that the exact change for the price of the thing PLUS the \$12.74 change you just gave me equals \$20?! So I separated the money out so it was easier to look at. Instead of two random-looking piles of cash, we now had this.

Surely anything that stands on two legs and has a pulse can see that this money on the counter adds up to twenty dollars, and as a cashier you might rather have small bills and change in your drawer than a \$20 bill that you can't do anything with.

I finally decided that the time I'd stood there trying to explain basic addition to an adult was not worth the convenience of having one piece of paper that I am statistically less likely to spend than the now four basically monetary worthless pieces of paper and ten annoying jangly pieces of metal that I honestly sometimes just throw away. I left the store more confused than the cashier was, but surely for different reasons.  How did I, of all people, out-math someone? I looked for plagues of locusts or doom-bringing horsemen as I drove home. All of which I would somehow defeat with my SUPER MATH POWERS OF INFINITY. TIMES A MILLION.

1. I am in awe of your math-some-ness.

2. This used to happen to me at fast food restaurants, sort of.

You order something, they punch it in and then hit the "subtotal" button. Apparently, when you hit that button, that's the point of no return. If you want to add or take away something after that, you need to get the MANAGER who has a KEY that UNLOCKS THE REGISTER and REVERSES TIME AND SPACE so you can CHANGE YOUR ORDER.

Also, I just dropped a class because the first day, the teacher outlined in the syllabus that there would be a class where we would need to bring a calculator.

I passed.

3. OK, Tyner siblings...as someone who is afraid of numbers AND has worked the register with the magic change-making buttons, I must address this from the cashier's perspective.

When I press the "\$20" button, I'm thinking about...um...NOT math...so when someone goes, "Oh, wait, I have a different amount of cash for you to make new numbers out of," my brain sort of freezes. Now, if I had been your cashier and you were like, "Look, I have exact change," and my cash drawer was still open, I would have been like, "Cool. Let's trade." But I still would have been slightly annoyed because in my experience, there's usually a line out the door and around the building when this sort of thing happens, and I just want you to suck it up, take your change, and get out of my line.

Now...if I had taken your \$20, put it in the register, shut the register, and handed you your change only to have you hand me your exact total instead, I would be slightly MORE annoyed because (as Sara said), I can't open the damn drawer without flagging down a shift manager to unlock it, because Starbucks doesn't want me or anyone else stealing cash out of the drawer. Which is super-annoying for BOTH of us, because now we have to wait for the manager.

And the WORST is that because the register is a computer, it doesn't let you do things like just add something or take something away once you've entered an order and begun a transaction, because (again) the computer doesn't want you to steal money. Try as I might, I could never get the computer to understand that I've never stolen money in my life; it just made me hit "refund mode" and then "return/exchange" and then "reason for refund" and then "amount" and then "items" and then "why don't you just punch yourself in the face because this customer is late for a meeting and you are putting your college degree to shame." And believe me, nothing is worse than having someone stare at you like you must be the dumbest human being on the planet, when inside you're thinking, "What's happened to me?! I took CALCULUS!!! Why doesn't my brain work anymore?!?!"

I will go out on a limb and say that your cashier probably didn't ever take calculus. But even if she had, it wouldn't have helped her. Because those cash registers with the magic buttons have a way of MAKING you stupid.

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