I have always liked math. In my younger days, I did well. In grade 11, I ended up in Calculus class with Mr. Riley.
Mr. Riley taught computers and senior math. He enjoyed talking about the stock market. On his head, he sported a carefully maintained comb over. He was in his fifties, I think. The problem was that my interest in math only went so far. I liked Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry. I liked parts of Calculus, but some parts I did not. Discussions of imaginary numbers did not interest me even a little bit. I like imagination in my words, but not my numbers. What I like about numbers is how unimaginative they are.
My math teacher before Mr. Riley (not the top of the line for role models and appropriate conversationalists, but a decent math teacher) thought I was something great. My plans to become a social worker he dismissed as a ridiculous waste. Teachers talk. I think Mr. Riley saw me coming and thought I was someone I was not. At least that is my best guess at our troubles.
That and I was not that into school the year Calculus rolled around. My heart was heavy and my head was elsewhere. My lack of fascination for numbers real and imagined can’t really be blamed on Mr. Riley. A few weeks in and Mr. Riley was annoyed. A few months in and I was a source of great irritation. He seemed less than blessed by my, “yeah, so what’s the actual point,” approach to Calculus. One day in exasperation, Mr. Riley attempted a prophecy.
Jones, he said, so I looked up. You know what you’re going to be when you grow up? I was all over rhetorical questions, so I waited. I can just see it now. You’re going to be one of those women that live in a trailer park. That answers the door at 3:00 in the afternoon. Soap operas blaring in the background. Can of beer in your hand. Kids screaming in the background behind you.
I laughed. But part of me wasn’t laughing, it was staring through him thinking, wait and see, buddy. You don’t know a thing about me. Driving down the road the other day, I thought of Mr. Riley. Instead of a “Just you wait, Henry Higgins,” moment, an entirely new conversation occurred to me. As a result, I’m organizing an all points bulletin to all the nursing homes in America until I find him. I’ve got some questions that need answers, like where?
Where, Mr. Riley? Where is that trailer park? If the soaps fail to suit, might I read instead? Iced tea perhaps for my hand. Does the bathrobe come with the trailer, and if so, in what colors is it available? I’m finally getting the vision and the sooner I get there the better.