Although I've always been bored by the memorization of specific numbers (such as my height and weight, for example, or the distance from Gamone to Grenoble), I can handle arithmetic expertly. And mathematical concepts, too, I believe. I learned long ago, for example, that a sound arithmetic method for making sure that your future garden pergola is not crooked consists of calling upon the wisdom of an ancient Greek philosopher who demonstrated that you can't go wrong by using a triangle whose sides measure 3, 4 and 5 units. Incidentally, I feel sorry for people such as Bob's young companion Christine who needed to look up this kind of information in Wikipedia. For me, Euclid and Pythagoras—more than Aristotle and his dog logic [display]—have always been a basis of scientific culture.
Inundated by comical but alarming emails concerning the avalanche of age and imminent senility from my adolescent friend Bruce Hudson (who, to my way of thinking, is maybe a little too obsessed by this predicament, for reasons I ignore), I've started to worry at times about the state of my neurones. Above all, I would appear to be troubled by the manipulation of these nasty little brown Euro coins:
In a supermarket context, my ancient brain reacts instantaneously to a sum that ends with an odd figure such as, say, seventeen euros. I happen to be a crack at mental arithmetic, and I deduce rapidly that I would rather give the cashier exactly seventeen euros instead of receiving messy change from a larger sum. But that's where the state of my brain makes its ugly appearance. [My friend Bruce Hudson will appreciate this Alzheimer coming-out.] I start to drag a few brass coins out of my purse, and suddenly it's total confusion. Indeed, several things happen simultaneously. First, I'm incapable of supplying the exact coins that are required. Second (almost instantaneously), the cashier, realizing that he/she cannot count upon my exactness, starts to examine my purse, as if I were an aged moron, incapable of sticking a digit into any kind of hole... black, pecuniary, sexual or otherwise. Inevitably, I play the cashier's game, in accordance with the profile of the inarticulate dying specimen that he/she supposes me to be. That's to say, I emit a ridiculous but realistic statement of the kind: "I'm incapable of distinguishing between all these tiny euros." OK, that statement classifies me inexorably as an aged idiot. And I'm ready to be carted off in an ambulance to the nearest home for old-timers.
Reality is simpler, less dramatic. For years, I've used two pairs of glasses: one pair for driving, and the other for reading (as at present, in front of my computer screen). When I drive to a supermarket, I'm equipped with the first pair... which doesn't enable me to distinguish between small coins. If I were a serious customer (which I'm not), I would say to the cashier: "Please excuse me while I change glasses." But, all too often, these employees (particularly chez Leclerc) are delightfully sexy girls who are better observed, in the immediate, through wide-angle spectacles than through closeup lenses.
This morning, at the local Intermarché, I had the chance of being received by a dull male employee in a grey shirt, whose profile disappeared like camouflage into the background. When this male cashier started burrowing into my purse, I wished politely that he would fuck off... but he insisted upon helping me kindly as if I were an aged idiot. Exceptionally, I put on my reading glasses, and gave him exactly the coins that he needed.
Thanks to this guy, I now realize that I need to reexamine globally the domain of diminished eyesight, small coins and visually-delightful supermarket nymphs.