Life In Numbers. By David Reid Otey

I go to dreamland at 11 pm on my sleep number bed set for 5, unconscious for 7 hours, peek at the world at 6 am, use 3 gallons of water for flushing, bathing, cooking and drinking. I pull on my size 36/32 pants, size 15 shirt and size 9 1/2 shoes. I walk down 4 steps into the garage and stroll 15 feet to my 1995 Buick with 230,000 miles on it. I drive 27 miles one way to work, reading  25mph, 45mph and 60mph speed limit signs and license plate letters and numbers LV 0065H. I consistently notice my mph numbers between25- 65 and mentally work through my daily mental drills of 8 multiple intelligences, 5 love languages, 5  master evaluation steps and more numbered sections. I think of the 20 dollars camping as supply money in my wallet until pay day.

I walk into work at the grade school, instantly joining a herd of 300 plus children who roam through four hallways and occupy 15 class rooms during the day. In my class room I consistently look at the clock numbers, to make sure my multi-grade level special education students go where they need to be and on time for music, art, pe, lunch and therapies, as well as when to start and stop my own lessons. I teach math: counting, time and money, the four basic operations, order, sequence and fractions. When grading math, I’m calculating to check and correct, sometimes punching the tiny numbers on my cell phone calculator to speed things up and always to get the correct percentage. When the hour number for snack time arrives,  I divide the choice of energy-fix ( cookies, raisins, apples, oranges) per child.

In the grocery store on the way home I look at the printed dollar and cent numbers of what I need, tally my bill before I get to check-out, watch the digital numbers pop up on the screen, and I watch myself hand over a 10 and a 5 and a 3 dollars more. I carry my 13 pounds of groceries to my 1,850 pound car. I sit my 145 pound body onto the 5 1/2 feet long front seat, start the 285. 6 cylinder engine and turn the 10 inch steering wheel back and forth once in a while to take the right roads home. For my enjoyment at home I play guitar and I use numbers on guitar tabs for playing. When I exercise I use numbers to be sure I work out long enough.

I’ve asked my students a few times, “why do we use numbers?” It takes them awhile. I usually have to narrow the question to “where do you see numbers that you know of ?”   They come up with the street signs, the phone, the clocks, money and math papers.  We add addresses, thermometers, clothes sizes, food amounts in pounds and ounces,  measures of sound (decibels),  sizes and food portions for their school lunches. After twenty minutes it always feels overwhelming just how much we need numbers in our lives, to calculate for our health and wealth and welfare. Numbers give us a sense of control, a way to think ahead, to prepare, to know how long for any type of change–in seasons,  in healing, in anticipating and planning strategies,  a visually objective certainty of major differences and powers involved in our lives. Numbers are identifiers, locators, descriptors, determiners, advisors, judges, qualifiers and always have the final say in who wins, right or wrong.

Well, it’s time for me to go now. I say that only with regard to this writing, but someday I will have to say it with regard to being unable to wake for another day. I will be 60 years old soon. That’s not old. That’s perseverance and love of life. So far, all of my numbers, including my IQ, have been fairly decent. They seem to be vastly improving, too. Or is that an illusion ? I wish my mom and dad had lived longer numbers, but I also calculate they had some very bad habits in their youth that may have caused a diminishing of the possible number length.  I didn’t have the same bad habits, so maybe I will see a much longer number.   The end of this number of words.

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