Sunday, May 17, 2009

Simple Math


Time: 1992
Place: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Have you ever taken a trip with a friend thinking what fun it would be to travel with this person, but once the journey began you realized what a huge mistake you made because you and your friend were not suited for traveling together? I made that mistake. I went on a week long vacation with a friend from work. We visited Seattle and Vancouver. I will call my friend Vivian.

The trip was not a complete disaster. We managed to have some good times along the way and we were still friends when we got back. However, most of the time we argued or were just plain pissed off at each other. Vivian and I were not romantically linked so our fights were not lovers’ spats or the result of sexual tension. We simply didn’t mix well.

The week ended with us at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport AKA Sea-Tac Airport. We returned the rental car and Vivian paid the bill.

“The bill for the car was $100.00,” Vivian said. “So now I only owe you $25.00.”

“$25.00?” I asked.

“That’s right,” Vivian said. “From the $125.00 I owe you.”

We had agreed to split shared expenses 50-50. In Vancouver, I had paid $250.00 for one night in a fancy hotel room. We could have found a cheaper hotel, but Vivian wanted to splurge, even though she had lectured me on being frugal and the need to “rough it” when we were planning the vacation.

“No, now you only owe me $75.00,” I said.

And that’s when our biggest argument of the trip began.

“What is your fucking problem?” Vivian shouted. “You can’t even do simple math! 100 subtracted from 125 is 25. I only owe you $25.00. Stop trying to rip me off.”

“I am using simple math,” I said. “You paid $100.00 for the car, but I only owe half of that. Add 50 to 25 and you get 75.”

“Where are you getting this 50 from?” she demanded. “I can’t believe you can’t do simple fucking math.”

“50 is how much you paid out of the 125 you owe me,” I said. “And the difference is 75. Look, let’s take out a pen and a sheet of paper and work it out. You’ll see that I’m right.”

“Never mind,” Vivian said. “We need to get to our terminal.”

We had been arguing in the rental car office and we still needed to get to our plane. As we made our way through the airport, Vivian decided to prove I was mathematically inept. She just needed to find a non-partial outside source.

“Excuse me,” she said to a man who was going the opposite direction. “I need your help to settle a problem we’re having.”

“Leave me alone!” the man shouted as he ran away from us.

“Could I get just a moment of your time,” Vivian said to a woman in a business suit.

“No,” the woman said. “You cannot.”

Vivian was getting agitated, but I was having a lovely time. It was if she were doing a performance art piece and I had a front row seat.

“I’ll tell you what,” I said to Vivian after a janitor ran away from her. “I’ll give you the fifty bucks just for acting so crazy.”

“Don’t you dare be condescending to me!” Vivian barked. “I am going to prove to you once and for all that you are wrong!”

Vivian was finally able to stop an airport employee. She was a tall woman in a crisp dark uniform and a fixed smile on her face.

“Excuse me,” Vivian said. “We need some help.”

“Certainly,” the woman said. “I work for Sea-Tac. Do you need help finding your terminal?”

“No, we know where it is,” Vivian said. “I need someone to prove that my friend here is wrong about an argument we’re having.”

The Sea-Tac woman looked confused, but bless her heart, her smile never wavered.

“Well, he might not be wrong,” she said. “Tell me what the argument is about and I’ll see if I can help.”

“Okay, here’s the deal,” Vivian said. “We just took a vacation together. I owe him $125.00 for a hotel room and then I paid $100.00 for a rental car, so how much do I owe him now?”

“And we’re splitting everything 50-50,” I added.

“Oh, you owe him $75.00,” Sea-Tac woman said.

Vivian’s mouth dropped open. She looked from Sea-Tac woman to me, trying to figure out how I had tricked Sea-Tac woman into saying the wrong amount, because there was no way in hell Vivian could accept that she had been doing the math wrong.

“Thank you for your time,” I said to Sea-Tac woman. “Come on, Vivian. We need to go or we’re going to miss our plane.”

“I hope that helped,” Sea-Tac woman said.

“More than you’ll ever know,” I said.

Vivian waited until we got to our terminal before she spoke again.

“Fine. I’ll give you the fucking $75.00,” she said.

“Fine,” I said.

Vivian gave me the silent treatment until we boarded the plane and she realized that we weren’t sitting together.

“Did you move your seat away from me?” Vivian said. “Why did you do that?”

“I didn’t make the airplane reservations,” I said. “You did. If anybody moved, it would have been you.”

“Well, I did move my seat a couple of days ago,” she said. “They should have moved your seat too since I made the reservations for the both of us at the same time.”

“Not if you call back later and tell them to just move your seat,” I said. “The airline wouldn’t know to also move my seat unless you tell them too. So, what happened is, you moved your seat away from me. I’m sitting where they originally put both of us.”

“Well, what do we do now?” Vivian asked.

“You go sit in your seat and I’ll go sit in mine,” I said. “I’ll see you in Atlanta.”

Vivian went and sat in an aisle seat, one seat from a window and I sat further back in the middle of a four seat middle aisle. It was a lousy seat and I could see why Vivian wanted to move.

A perky blonde woman sat next to me.

“Would you be willing to do me a huge favor?” perky blonde asked me.

“Depends on what it is,” I said.

“See that man over there?” she said, pointing to a handsome young man sitting in a nice aisle seat, one seat from a window. “We just got married and we’re on our way to our honeymoon. Would you be willing to switch seats with him, so that we can sit together?”

A better seat and a chance to do a mitzvah? How could I say no?

“Of course I will,” I said.

As I started to get up and switch seats with the handsome young man, I glanced over to the front of the airplane and saw Vivian. Her head was bobbing like a pigeon as she tried to figure out what I was doing.

“See that woman over there,” I said to perky blonde. “The one who keeps staring at us?”

“Yes,” perky blonde said. “Who is she?”

“That’s my wife,” I said, “We’ve been married for seven years and we made a point of sitting as far away from each other was we possibly could.”

“Really?” perky blonde asked, her voice trembling.

“No, I’m teasing you,” I said. “I’ve never seen that woman before in my life. By the way, congratulations on your marriage. I hope you guys have a great honeymoon.”

“Thanks,” perky blonde replied. “I know we will. We travel together really well.”

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