Thursday, April 12, 2007

An Ounce of Education

Just this week, a dear friend of the family passed away, and now arrangements are being made for his funeral and burial. My wife is helping organize and provide a luncheon for the family members after the funeral, and she’s been told to expect about 150 people. So, my wife and I took off to the local warehouse store to buy more shredded beef than you could pack in a small army’s collective colon – I’m guessing, of course.

In preparation for our shopping trip, my wife had determined the average portion sizes and such so we could be sure no one was left wanting. It all seemed so simple. However, as we’re standing in the shredded beef aisle, blocking all possible passage with our yacht-sized shopping cart, we find that it’s now important that we muster together our math skills to figure out the proper quantities. We must have spent twenty minutes alternately staring at each other and scratching our heads completely dumbfounded. Come on, we both graduated from college with four-year degrees, and we’re having trouble converting the number of ounces into pounds? Sadly, yes. All of the classes we were required to take on, say, the migratory patterns of three-toed sloths and the symbolism contained in The Iliad didn’t quite help.

A casual observer would have thought we were NASA engineers and the shelves before us were complicated charts and graphs detailing the pros and cons of re-entry with a disabled flux capacitor on the troubled spacecraft. “Houston, we have a problem. We’re morons!” At some point in our less-than-rocket-science moment, one of the clerks asked us if he could help. We, of course, declined. But for all we knew, he could have been Stephen Hawking in a really good disguise – we’ll never know now, will we? At long last we made the necessary computations and agreed we had the right quantities – but not without the help of the calculator function and web browser on my cell phone. Sad!

As you sit and reflect on this, some of you may ask, “Why on God’s green earth are you serving shredded beef at a funeral?” Fair question, but it doesn’t really matter, does it? I will tell you, though, that I had made some menu suggestions to my wife that were summarily vetoed: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (voted down for fear that we couldn’t pick a universally accepted flavor of jelly); pizza (voted down for fear that the dairy aspect of the cheese my cause “phlegminess”, which can’t be a good thing for people who have been weeping); and chicken nuggets (she just stared at me, no reason given). Oddly enough, I just listed the three main staples of my youngest son’s diet.

After lugging the ingredients we purchased into the house, I am confident we bought enough – my hernia will second that. As I sit and write this, my stumbling through a couple of simple math equations in the warehouse store is probably causing my pride to hurt slightly more than any discomfort in my back. Although I’m tempted to write a letter to my university asking for a partial refund – I won’t ask for it all back because I did meet my wife at their fine establishment – I’ll put that off for another day. Obviously, other things are more important right now. We’ll miss you, Frank!

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