Life’s Equations

I can’t say I remember too much from Mr. Watson’s high school algebra class.

In fact, I had no business being there at all. I wanted to take remedial math that year, but everyone was against it and pushed me toward those maddening college-prep algebraic equations. Had that other course title been

somewhat friendlier (perhaps refresher math), I probably would have been encouraged by my peers and parents to “brush up a little.”

Mathematics has never been one of my strong points. To this day (and this is

three decades down the road), I can’t discover any relationship between <italics>x<italics> and <italics>y<italics>, but I do carry with me one life-altering tidbit from Mr. Watson. His tests always had a ‘none of the above’ choice to drive us all batty. He loved to make us struggle.

I love <italics>none of the above<italics> and have used it often and with much aplomb. I remember interviewing for a job some years back and being told the openings were in Albany, Baltimore and Chicago. It was October, about time to snow. “None of the above,” I answered. “How about Honolulu?”

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. But I’ve kept Mr. Watson’s phrase handy. I think it’s ideal for voting. I mean, for some elections, don’t you agree penning in ‘none of the above’ wins the day? <italics>None of the above<italics> is direct and hard-hitting. It’s clearly not negotiable.

One recent Saturday my husband suggested we go out for dinner. He asked if I’d prefer Chinese, Japanese or Thai cuisine. “None of the above,” I replied

“Let’s go for Italian.” Thank you, Mr. Watson!

Do I buy the navy blue, forest green or coal black coat? None of the above.

Do I dye my hair brown, yellow or red? None of the above. Mr. Watson has made life’s decisions elegantly simple. He inched me toward assertiveness even before it was fashionable.

The bottom line is I just prefer words to numbers. But they’re all symbols, aren’t they? So language types can get along with math types. I married a math type, in fact. Opposites attract. I’m not even considering converting to being an algebra-lover. I’m sure my D from Mr. Watson was the right thing. I earned it.

by Roberta Beach Jacobson

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