We heard her expressing concern, as we walked through the front door. “It’s not printing the receipts, guys!” she yelled to her fellow workers back in the kitchen area. One of the guys came running out to assist, but to no avail. The register tape was jammed.
“Just tell the customers we can’t print receipt right now,” he told her, and then scurried back to the French fry machine.
It was no big deal for us. Receipts from a fast food restaurant aren’t that important – unless there are 100 people in line and they really mess up the orders. But we were the only ones their at the time. So I did what any wise guy would do. I placed our order, totaling $10.43, and gave her a twenty dollar bill. Then I asked for a receipt.
She panicked. I told her I was just kidding about the receipt. She said, “No, it’s not that…I just don’t know how much change to give you.” I was dumfounded – and willing to walk her through the art of making change, when she called for Fred to come back out front. He dropped his fries and trotted over.
“I can’t tell how much change to give this man without the receipt,” she explained to him. “I think it’s nine dollars and some change.” He nodded, apparently agreeing that this was a dilemma. He fumbled with the cash register and was able to have it display the change amount. She sighed deeply and doled me out $9.53; amazingly, the exact amount…
We sat down with our lunch. “Wow,” was all I could say, as my wife laughed.
Now granted, some people aren’t very good at math. It takes a certain mind to breeze through the Pythagorean Theorem or solve a trigonometric equation. But we’re talking “making change” here, folks. And the struggle of slaving through that task is by no means unique to this young lady. It’s a systemic problem with today’s education system and society’s total dependence upon technology to make too many of our decisions for us.
When my kids were young, I was concerned that they had no idea how to tell time on a regular clock – you know, the traditional clock we’ve been using almost since the Aztecs devised their concept of measuring time thousands of years ago? But kindergarten got them past that hurdle and they’re pretty good at telling time, twenty years later, without the technology of a digital watch or cell phone. Many from the last couple of generations still struggle with that one.
And spelling? Don’t even get me started on that one. It seems that most of the world either relies on SpellCheck or just doesn’t care about how words are spelled – or whether they even use the right homonym… Just as Latin is a dead language, spelling seems to be heading down the same path. No need to strain the brain when technology can do it for you, right?
There’s only one place I’ve seen where we’ve actually reverted to a manual system that makes us think rather than have a machine do the work for us. That’s at the gas pump. Twenty years ago, an actual gas station attendant filled your tank and collected your cash; you would think technology would have devised a way to let a machine do that for us by now. Nope! These days, we actually have to get out of our cars and pump our own gas, combining physical effort, dexterity, and math computation all in one experience. We should give college credits for this!
Now, none of these little idiosyncrasies of mine really means much in today’s society – that is, until we have a worldwide power outage and run out of batteries. Then we’re up the creek without a paddle, having no concept of time, words, or numbers. We won’t necessarily need to make change then – we can just barter, like they did in the old days. And pumping gas? Well, without any concept of money – or electricity to run the pumps, we won’t have to worry about that either.
Are we really training the brightest generation here? After all, if you don’t know how to chew your food, how can you swallow it?
So here’s your challenge! Run back through this article and find the math error and the spelling error that I’ve cleverly hidden in the prose; dim wit that I am. And see how long it takes you to do that – without using your watch… Then go tie a shoe lace and use a pencil eraser.
And marvel at how far we really haven’t come.
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Joe’s Two Cents – It’s Great To Be Alive is Joe Paradis’ first published book and gathers 40 of his most popular stories, enhancing them with humorous photography. The book is a compilation of forty of Joe’s best short stories.
Injecting humor into topics from everyday life, Joe answers those earth-shattering questions we all have about the beach, the bathroom, the junk drawer. From guys’ tools to girl talk. High school seniors to the senior years.
This classic collection has been updated to include pictures and a short introduction for each story. Until now, only God knew what possessed Joe to write about these things. Now you can too!
Joe Paradis is one of Londonderry’s most popular columnists and authors. Visit his web site at www.joes2cents.com today and order his latest autographed book, “It’s Great to Be Alive!”