## Sunday, November 22, 2009

### The Saga of Integers.

Here's a secret: I do not comprehend numbers.

Whether my absolute idiocy when it comes to all things quantitative is related or proportional to my relationship with words is completely beyond me, but I think a lot about The Phantom Tollbooth, and how I'm no Mathemagician but would happily kiss the ring of King Azaz the Unabridged. I was a D student in Calculus (though to be fair I was being taught by the football coach). I went to a college with no math requirements for a reason, and I still managed to fail the entrance Quantitative Literacy exam. My SAT/ACT/GRE scores are completely lopsided. The challenge in playing Scrabble is not in the words, but in calculating the scores. I break a sweat at the mall when I have to ring up a purchase because it involves computing tax and using a calculator. I can't do simple math without a pen and paper. I have to use the finger trick, where you put down the finger of the number you're multiplying and "read" the answer (aka for 7 x 9, you'd bend your seventh finger, leaving six on the left and three on the right, therefore 7 times 9 is 63), to figure out X x 9.

All in all, Rachel + Math = No Good.

Which makes my obsession with numbers pretty ridiculous.

The numbers that I mean, though, are the real life ones, the practical ones, the ones you can enter into a log and tally up at the end of the day. Today, for instance, I took my trusty two-wheel steed out on a spin, and the ride was great - saw some parts of Wilmington I'd never seen, wasn't hit by any cars, got to pet a dog - but the real reward was when I zoomed back through the neighborhood, dashed upstairs, got on Google and put in our home address alongside a rough estimate of where I'd turned around, and saw the result: 4.6 miles. Round trip, that's 9. 9 miles! Which is 3 more miles than my last bike ride! Which means maybe I can bike 3 additional miles on my next ride, which would put me at roughtly 11 miles, which would get me as far as the Tidal Creek Co-Op, or two downtown loops, or three trips around Greenfield Lake, etc etc etc.

Or, take goodreads for example. Goodreads, for those fortunate uninitiated, is a reading website where you can catalog and review books you've read with a handy method of digital "shelves" - and then you can find friends and compare books and read other reviews, etc. It is a dangerous and tantalizing site, and it has brought out the worst of the Number Monster in me. I'm hell-bent on reaching 100 books, so I've instated a monthly quota of 10 books, and I get mad at myself when it's the first of the month and I've only "accomplished" 8 or 9.

This also happened with last.fm, which automatically tracks your iTunes and computes statistics of total artists, total plays per artist, "favorite artists" etc. In 4 years of membership, I've logged 25,000+ tracks. 2,000 of those are exclusively Modest Mouse and The National. I've listened to "Baby We'll Be Fine" by the National 62 times, apparently. The song is 3 minutes 21 seconds long, or 201 seconds. In total, that's 12, 462 seconds of one song, or approximately 207 minutes - 3 and a half hours of one song.

Why do I think this information is vital? What part of my brain loves this stuff, then gets clammy when asked to divide 32 by 8?

And it gets worse. I'm two months away from 23 years old. I'm currently writing in my 24th journal. Only recently did I stop numbering the pages, because I was giving myself these manic quotas of needing to write x number of pages per day, and while I've managed to quit doing that, I have told myself I have to finish this journal by my 23rd birthday - but I want that more so I can have a clean start with #25, considering this journal has a six month lapse of emptiness in it and is therefore the "longest" journal I've ever kept, and the temptation to flip back and read previous pages about the Western road trip or the anxiety of senior year is almost always impossible to resist.

Even more neurotic - during one of our first weeks here, Rob and I drove past a hookah place. "We should go there sometime," he suggested. I shrugged. "Depends on the cost."

"Why?"

"Well, if it's \$15, then we'll be there roughly an hour or two, right, and I'd rather buy three packs of cigarettes for the same cost and have those, because that'll last me two weeks."

And while Rob admitted it made sense, it kind of freaked him out that I was thinking like that. But that's the way my brain works when it comes to numbers - like last night, we went out bar-shopping (not hopping, because we don't know what bars are what yet), and we ended up in this insanely noisy basement broadcasting sports full of bitches with tramp stamps and dudes screaming "FUUUUUCK YOU" at the football game on TV, and we both got beers and the tab was 9.00.

Then we went, on a whim, to this Sofa Bar which is exactly what it sounds like - a bar full of sofas on the second floor of this bistro, where the waiters wore long aprons and there was an amazing cocktail list, but the beers, I noticed, were the same price. A Guinness was still 4.50. So I thought, "Oh, well, for the same cost, we could come here, where we can actually hear each other speak." Economically, this bar was a better choice.

This is also why I hesitate to ever go on any kind of official diet, because I know, having tried it before, I become a neurotic mess of calorie counting and nightly weigh-ins and insane ultimatums of "If I eat x and then do x and then x and x, then tomorrow I can x and x and x, but only if x x, etc." So I'm trying to avoid that at all costs while making some kind of effort to get svelter.

Overall, I think there's something a little dangerous, or at least unhealthy, in living by numbers like this - but I think I'm getting better. Statistically, at least - my bank account is growing, my Scrabble score is rising, my bike endurance is increasing, I'm writing more regularly, reading more voraciously---

Okay so I'm hopeless but at least I admit it. Ba-dum-chh?