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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

She Heard it on the Cash Cab

Sometimes a topic for a blog post comes on the morning news, or from a book I just read, a movie I just saw, or a conversation I had in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. I can’t count how many times though, that a subject has come to me via the ringing of the telephone.

Mama called this morning.

Mama is a thinker and a language lover. She loves to call me and report on the latest grammatically incorrect roadside sign, or some mispronunciation she just overheard in the truck stop restaurant. She wonders what cows say to each other, and how places come to be named Toad Suck, Arkansas, or Bucksnort, Tennessee. She’s an idea person, and I love her for giving me so much blog fodder over the years.

This morning she called me and said, “I knew you’d want to hear my important news. Y’all have thought… (Mama’s from Texas, and she has a license to use the word Y’all, it hangs on the wall in her laundry room.) “Y’all have thought I was crazy all these years, but I’m not. I have proof.”

You see, among the myriad of conversation topics Mama and I enjoy, one is her interesting, and sometimes peculiar way of looking at things. For instance, Mama subconsciously counts her steps when she’s working on some mindless project, like carrying in several bags of groceries or folding the laundry. Mama and Daddy travel a lot, and she says she catches herself lying in bed in the hotel rooms, counting the ceiling tiles; and when it comes to the volume on the radio in her van, or on the television, she likes to make sure it stops on a multiple of five, like thirty. “If thirty is too loud,” she says, “I will bump it down to twenty-nine, but I don’t like to.”

I remember sitting at Mama’s table over coffee recently, discussing the fact that she has always assigned gender to numbers. Mama sees numbers in male and female, and has since she was a very young child. You see, in Mama’s mind, even numbers are decidedly female, especially 2, 4 and 8. The number 6 is usually female, though she clarifies that 6 is rather tall and athletic, maybe a bit of a tomboy. Conversely, the odd numbers 5, 7 and 9 are male, Mama says. The number 3 she’s not certain about---perhaps he’s gay, or another one of those tomboy types. That covers the numerals 2 through 9, and as for the 0 and the 1, Mama says they are each genderless, though she’s not sure why.

So, I’m sitting at my computer this morning, browsing my blog roll, and wondering what to write about when Mama calls to prove to me that she’s not insane. “I was listening to the Cash Cab on the television this morning, and I heard it. The question was about the theory that numbers have gender. So I looked it up on the computer…” (That’s Mama’s way of saying she googled.) “…and it’s called the Pythagoras Theory.”

Pythagoras said that even numbers were male and odd numbers were female. That’s not exactly the way Mama sees it, but if you’re assigning gender to numbers, like a sixth century CE Greek philosopher, that has to prove something, doesn’t it? Even more interesting, says Mama, is the idea that
The number 1 was godlike to Pythagoreans, and the number 0 did not exist – so neither is assigned gender, further confirmation that she has not lost her marbles.

I have to tell you, I’m relieved that Mama called, and not just because I needed a blog topic today. You see, last weekend my husband and three adult kids, and I were making a road trip. My oldest daughter Sarah was in the middle of the back seat, when she saw me adjusting the volume on the radio dial. I stopped on 45---because volume adjustment is governed by the unspoken “multiples of five” rule. Immediately Sarah called to me over my shoulder. “Um Mom, it has to stop on an even number!” Because I love my children, I sacrificed, and dropped the dial back down to 44, but I will tell you, it bothered me for a while. Before long, I kicked it to 50, and everyone was happy.

So, if Mama’s numeric gender assignments are the sort of thing that makes a Greek theorist like Pythagoras a genius, then I can assume that my peculiarities with numbers are just evidence of my own dizzying IQ.

In conclusion, neither Mama nor I is crazy.
She heard it on the Cash Cab!

1 comment:

vision2eyes@gmail.com said...

great blog keep up the good work

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