Most of us may not admit it, but we’ve all fallen victim to the lure of innumeracy—the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy—consciously or unconsciously. Here are twenty of my favorite innumerate events I often witness among my numerate and semi-numerate friends, colleagues, and relatives.
• Taking a 45-minute train journey to save a few dollars at Carrefour or Walmart.
• Lining up for hours (or even days, if you’re in China?) to buy an iPhone or iPad.
• Paying a numerologist or geomancy crank to divine your “lucky” and “unlucky” days.
• Visiting a feng-shui master to offer advice how best to arrange your furniture at home, or in your office, to ward off negative or “unwanted energies.”
• Buying similar items in bulk at discounted prices, which you don’t need but because they’re cheap.
• Offering foods to idols [aka gods and goddesses] in the hope that they’ll bring you good luck and prosperity in return.
• Offering gifts to hungry [angry?] ghosts to appease them lest they come back to harm you and your loved ones.
• Buying insurance policies against alien abduction, meteorites, biological warfare, or the enslavement of the apocalyptic Beast.
• Filling up lucky draw vouchers, by providing your personal particulars for future pests-marketeers and time-sharing consultants.
• Betting on horses, football, stocks, and the like—any get-rich activities that may cut short a 30-year working life, slaving for your mean or half-ethical bosses 9-to-6 every day.
• Buying lottery tickets to short-circuiting hard work, or to retiring prematurely.
• Going on annual pilgrimages to seeking blessing from some deities, prophets, saints, or animal spirits.
• Outsourcing your thinking to self-help gurus or motivational coaches.
• Going for prices that end in 99 cents, or acquiring auctioned items that are priced at $88 or $888—the number 8 is deemed auspicious among superstitious Chinese.
• Replying to spam mails from conmen and “widows” from Nigeria, Russia, or China, who are exceedingly generous to transfer half of their inherited money to your bank account.
• Taking a half-day leave from work, or faking sickness to visit the doctor, to line up for hours to buy McDonald Hello Kitties.
• Lining up overnight to buy the latest model of a game console, or to secure an apartment unit of a newly built condominium.
• Enrolling for courses that cost over a thousand bucks to learn “Effective Study Habits of Highly Successful Students.”
• Postponing all important meetings, or avoiding air traveling, on a Friday the thirteenth.
• Canceling all major business dealings, weddings, or product launches during the Ghost (or Seventh) Month.
Now is your turn to share with the mathematical brethren at least half a dozen of your pet innumerate activities—those numerical idiocies or idiosyncrasies— that you (or your loved ones) were indulged in at some not-too-distant point in the past.
© Yan Kow Cheong, November 10, 2014.