Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

June 25, 2009

My Numberology...does it really add up?

My Days Are Numbered (My Counting Daze) – By Doug Curran

Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like do we live by numbers? I bought a chicken salad sandwich and a drink the other day while browsing at a local bookstore. The total was $6.66. I immediately winced. So did the cashier. We both looked at each other and I looked at the sandwich as if it had cancer. I laughingly asked the girl if I she could charge me $6.67 instead for it and she laughingly told me to choke on it. We both knew what 666 meant, as does any good Bible reader of the Book of Revelations. Or maybe she just thought I was hitting on her.

But do we depend on numbers for some of our decisions? How many people are still playing the lottery with their lucky numbers - their birthdates, divorce dates, the first day they fell off their bike, the day they swallowed a fly, the tax refund that never came – it’s ridiculous! When are we going to stop living by numbers? I ate in a Chinese restaurant recently and the placemat was a Chinese Zodiac. My oldest son’s birth year is totally incompatible with his girlfriend’s. Should I tell him or just shut up and eat my Egg Too Young?

Why do we say “Your number’s up?” What does that mean? What number? Like “Take a number” when you walk into the DMV and hope they renew your driver’s license and don’t check your eyesight? Or isn’t it something more sinister, more final, more fateful, like biting the big enchilada? What number is up? And what if it’s off by one? Do we all have some secret number given to us when we are born into the world, the number of years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds we will live, and when we get there, that number is up? Someone is going to call our number and awaayyyy we go?

And if you live long enough or survive a disaster, isn’t it called beating the odds? What are the odds anyway? The un-evens? Nobody likes the odd numbers. What’s so good about 2-4-6 and not 1-3-5? Why do we say “The odds are if you keep on smoking, you will die of toenail cancer”? Why not “The evens are…”? Some people are really addicted to numbers in the old gambling halls too, when they do the roll of the dice or the spin of the wheel or just trust fate and chance more than choice. Bingo! You get all the right numbers in a row, you WIN! Win what? What do numbers have to do with winning? And why do they have to be in a row? And why is it called Bingo?

I hear sports guys talk about “the over and under”, betting on games. I don’t get it. There’s another arena for betting - game scores! Winning and losing by numbers again, or how many goals you can score. Whatever man can bet on, you can bet he will…bet. Numbers are a measure of winning and losing. And winning is everything, right? Or when you lose, we say, “Somebody’s got your number.” There it is again, that illusive number. What number? And how come they can get mine and I can’t get theirs?

It’s a numbers game. Go through enough numbers and someone will reward you. It’s the old sales job, right? Talk to enough people and someone will buy. Mail out enough letters and 3% will respond. I used to do that, but the secret is that you have to talk to enough people the same way, using the exact same pitch – and I couldn’t do it. I had to change the wording and the inflection or I’d go nuts. That must be why I’m not in tele-sales. Or if I ever do it again, I will just have someone else read my pitch so it never changes, and then maybe the numbers game will work for me. I’ll split the commission.

We live by numbers. We ARE numbers! We are our social security number, our birth date, our driver’s license number, our street address, our student ID, our registration number, all our myriad consumer account numbers and credit card numbers – and we are number- crunched throughout our lives till our number’s up, right? But what if our number doesn’t come up? How do we keep our number from coming up? But what’s our number??? Should that be my life quest, to find my number? Am I being counted by someone? We also want to know if we count - while trying to see if we can count.

That’s one of the first things we learn, right, how to count? We use our fingers and little kids often show their age with their fingers because…they don’t want to say it. Why? “I am three” Maybe they’re not sure, because they don’t trust older people. Years mean nothing to little kids anyway, right? Until they’re older. Then they want to be 16 to drive, and 18 to vote and 21 to drink. We are our age! Why not our age in months, not years? Or some other measurement? And why don’t women want to reveal their age? Maybe if they just used decades, not years. We men are too stupid to figure that one out. There’s that number calculation phrase – figure things out. Math! Go figure. I hate math. And then we talk about things not adding up. What things?

I used to play a game I made up with my kids when they were younger. They’d all sit in front of me and pick a number I was holding invisibly in my head. And I’d pick a silent number. And if they got the number in my head, they got tickled, because I was THE TICKLE MONSTER! And yes, sometimes it was picking a number between 1 and 10 and sometimes it was 1 and 20 to make the game longer. But I could mess with the numbers so everyone got a chance to get tickled, although, they were never quite sure if that was a reward or penalty for guessing it right, depending on whether you like being tickled. I always hated getting tickled. But if they guessed it? “That’s the number!”

Manipulating the numbers? Do we try to do that with our money? We really need those numbers when we try to figure out our money and our income and expenses and taxes and investments. Watch the numbers and make them grow, and if you accumulate enough one’s, they will become millions. But only if you use them exponentially, not just collect them and stick them in a box. I just can’t remember which box I put them in.

I’m ok with numbers on a 5th grade level, like adding and subtracting and dividing and multiplying. But beyond that, who needs them? I almost flunked out of Algebra in the 9th grade – I got a gift D-. And my C- in high school Geometry saved me to play on the football team because my teacher was my football coach. I see my poor right-brained kids struggle through basic college math two or three times - and I thank my lucky starts I didn’t have to take math to pass college in my day. Stars? Now there's a counting nightmare.

So whether it’s 666 or lucky sevens - lucky why? And why is 666 the number of the beast anyway? What beast? As far as I’m concerned, numbers ARE the beast! Like Trig and Calculus? They are like foreign languages and totally useless to me. And I still don’t know how the Chinese and Arabs count with those funny other little hand things – the abacus? What’s up with that? Come on, stop showing off and just use your fingers like normal people! And toes if you need them. So far, I haven’t had to take my shoes off, but if I’m at the checkout counter and I need to, I will. I’m not proud.

And is zero a number? Or a non-number? Or a cipher? A big nothing, nada, zero? And you can’t use “O” as a number. It’s a letter, hello! So when you’re giving your phone number to some girl, guys, if there’s a “0”, say zero. Not “O”! Get it? Do you want to score points or not? See, we're counting numbers again. Now you got me going in circles. Wait a minute, is a circle an “O” or a “0”? At least we could ask out little kids..”Ok, do you have to do number one or number two?”

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