I’ve always wrestled with fractions. For as long as I can remember. You see, I missed a single day of elementary school in the 4th grade. And I am convinced that the entirety of human knowledge regarding fractions was conveyed to my John T. Roberts classmates in the course of that single, fateful day. When I returned to school the following morning, my health apparently restored, the Good Ship Fractions had long since left port. Off in the distance, eight of the three topsails dipped low on the horizon. Then she disappeared completely into the water, which covers 12/7ths of the earth’s surface, as I understand it.
Clearly, I picked exactly the wrong day for a stomach bug.
A similar phenomenon transpired on a handful of other occasions, whereby I would somehow completely miss out on something that at one time seemed — and on occasion still seems — important. Video games. I missed that boat, too. Zero interest. Maybe I had the flu or just overslept on the morning my neighborhood buddies gathered around a big Zenith TV and lost themselves in the novelty of “Asteroids.” And it’s too late for me now to develop an affinity. Both of my sons would spend way too many hours glued to one violent video game or another if given free reign. But we don’t give them free reign. We frequently hide the game controllers in anger. And more often than not (equating to 13/101th of the time, by my calculations), we cannot find the controllers ourselves after our anger has dissipated.
Same deal with playing cards. If I catch a whiff of an imminent rainy day suggestion of a game of “Bob’s Hat,” I experience a visceral, Pavlovian reaction. I slink off in the opposite direction, avoiding eye contact or feigning sudden interest in a television show in another room. I can’t imagine that my 4th grade teacher revealed the wonders of Texas Holdem to my wide-eyed schoolmates during his “Fractions 101” lesson while I wiped my nose raw at home. But he might have. That possibility could indeed explain why I have such a deep aversion to playing cards. Even now, I feel mildly nauseated upon spying an errant card lying at the bottom of our kitchen junk drawer. My knees buckle as I reflexively clutch the counter to avoid losing consciousness.
On the plus side, that stomach bug during the winter of 1977 likely spared me from a life of compulsive gambling. Note to readers: I am in no way implying or suggesting that the lads with which I just spent 3 days in Vegas are compulsive gamblers. On the contrary, they appear remarkably well-adjusted and properly-perspectived. To my knowledge, for example, none of my college buddies hocked gold-capped molars for one last hand of Pai Gow. Nor am I suggesting anybody had gold teeth, by the way. I don’t really know, but I don’t think so. Rather, I am merely reporting that I would definitely be a compulsive gambler but for my complete ignorance regarding how fractions work. I have a feeling I would gladly pawn 39/32 of my dental fillings for just one more throw of the die. Crazed look in my eyes and a huge smile with no teeth.
Here I was, completely surrounded by a sea of legal wagering. On college basketball games. Spreads and over unders or under overs. On the pull of a one armed bandit’s lever. On which of us would next disappear, surreptitiously sneaking off to our hotel room for a much-needed midday nap. And I abstained. Not from the napping part. I am a gifted napper. From the gambling part. I literally wagered nothing. Not because I am too good for it. Because I am not good enough for it. And for me, that is a good thing.
Thanks for reading.