What's two plus two plus eight

Two plus two is fish

A STORY OF MANUSCH

 

As she did every Saturday morning, she turned to page eight of the free weekly newspaper and looked forward to the search puzzle she would solve in no time. Well done, then the obligatory move, which this time required a special start with the pawn and then… ..Oh, suddenly she was breathing hard, another stupid math puzzle. She was grown up, yes, and she knew by now that she wasn't stupid. Rather, she had learned over the decades that, compared to the average, she can even think quite well. Nevertheless, there is that remaining burden again very quickly, this oppressive memory from the classroom. A kind of déjà vu from childhood, this dull feeling of not understanding anything, not enough as soon as the numbers are involved. She was a curious child, an intelligent and alert little ghost lived in her and always looked curiously out into the world. Sometimes a bit unusual and even brisk, which unfortunately wasn't in great demand. The questions she asked didn't always meet with open ears, apart from the somewhat demanding nature she had when she really wanted to know something. This was especially unusual in school. Hopefully things are going better these days and easier for the children, who show an interest in things that need to be classified alongside school material, she thinks briefly and has the thoughtful boy on the 5th floor above her in mind. Well, my eyes fell again on the newspaper with the riddles and mind sports exercises.

The elementary school was still going reasonably well, but then in the high school. She immediately remembered sitting in front of the slide rule, annoyed and intimidated. The old professor - for the 11-year-old girls all professors were ancient at the time - stood menacingly next to her and stank. Oh yes, her nose was very sensitive and she had a pronounced sense of smell, because she was extensive, and could also smell anger and anger. Anger smelled like a powdery dark gray with yellow smeary stains in it, that was disgusting enough. Anger, on the other hand, smelled sour and stank like wet iron, it sounded like a stick being pulled along a steel grating with full force. If sound and smell were mixed up in perception, it was suddenly too much, then all thinking automatically stopped with her. Then the girl withdrew into a quiet, lonely world where she could no longer be reached. The math professor smelled intensely of musty aftershave, his suit of moth powder (which she knew from the Italian vacation home) and his exhalation of anger, at the latest in the middle of the week, when the last math lesson was to be held in lower school. Each time she braced herself and tried her best to hear what he was explaining. However, it only rushed through her head quickly and meaninglessly and so she had nothing else to do but to pretend to understand the slide rule or the equations. Sometimes that went well, but if he questioned her closely about a result, hiding was over. He stomped his big shoes as he approached her table and grabbed the old-fashioned calculator. Then he fizzled through the air with it and shouted at the girl: 2 plus 2 equals 5 for you, that's unbelievable, what stupidity.

Well, she sat in that hole from then on and spent the rest of the lesson and a few subsequent years with a lot of joy in some subjects and a lot of fear and little self-worth when it came to math. Presumably that was one of the reasons for dropping out of high school early on, when puberty later bothered her with its pitfalls. Actually, she always wanted to be a teacher, life played a different song and luckily these experiences did not prevent her from later completing high-quality training and a full degree. She would have liked to give tuition to children in the neighborhood in her free time, now she has been in the pension for several years. But she shied away, because the maths material would surely have been structured more complicated in the meantime, a shame. Perhaps she should place an ad: Give free tutoring in many subjects (except math!), Oh what, idle considerations on the weekend.

All of this went through her head and she sighed. It can't be that I can't finally get rid of the math trauma, it's as superfluous as a goiter and after all I never have to go to school involuntarily. She got herself a hot black espresso and bravely tackled the puzzle. Today was the best day to counter the old number phobia. To get in the mood, she quickly counted the 12 series in her head, which she was not quite as unsympathetic as the 14 series, not to mention divisions with 17, the feeling very uncomfortable and off we went.

So, it said: Please solve the following problem: 2 + 2 is fish, 3 + 3 is eight and 7 + 7 is triangle. She reacted without hesitation, grabbed the pen and wrote the respective digits in a left column and mirrored in the right column. Right track, lo and behold, two 2s became a fish, two 3s became an eight and two 7s became a triangle, that was probably child's play. Perhaps there was more to solve in such a simple way and she looked for old newspapers from the trash and after half an hour she happily played with Sudokus and resolved to look for a few equations on a homework portal on the Internet soon and to possibly also to solve the same. The morning was gone in no time and the tutoring could still be something, she thought, surprised. The next day she rummaged through the dusty, old boxes in the cellar until she finally found the slide rule in the red-beige cover, ugly as it was then. No, she still didn't get the thing, but that didn't matter now.

She carefully smashed it with the big hammer and with every blow she drove a bit of the falsely ascribed stupidity out of herself. Beat after beat with devotion until she could breathe freely. She turned in circles and laughed out loud. It was really about time. Some things ferment in secret for too long and strange, little incidents sometimes help us to take a different path or to take a different perspective or ……… simply let go of old insults and intimidations and attributions.

She smiled happily to herself, grabbed one of the well-stored wines in the cellar and decided to have a little celebration with herself. I met her on the way back in the stairwell and enjoyed the old red with her during this story. Such a small excavation, a trip into the past that hides old injuries, she recommended to me and I am happy to pass that on to you.

So, now we know. We all have the chance to discover a “2 + 2 is fish” and to regain our own strength, just keep looking carefully between the lines.