After a day’s sightseeing in Bath, Gareth and I showing off to our London friends, Matt and Emma, just how much green and space and air and fun there is in Bath, we settled on some Yum Yum Thai for dinner.
Having been drinking since lunch time, we naturally ordered a hundred starters and a plate of duck meat each, plus a few bottles of their finest house white. We continued to talk and eat and drink and talk. Times were merry, fun was plentiful.
Somehow, the conversation found it’s way to mathematics. Like it does.
From what I recall, we were accusing Matt of being very good at mathematics and possibly even enjoying it. At that moment, a sweet little Chinese waitress came over to deliver the bill.
I know what you’re thinking – I was in a Thai restaurant, the waitress wasn’t Chinese. But you weren’t there. She was. There’s no rules.
Again, I’m fuzzy on how it happened, but the next thing I knew, I’d been informed by the waitress, who surprisingly wanted to engage with us despite our decibels in an otherwise peaceful dining establishment, that she too was very good at maths.
Sober, I could probably have come up with a trickier multiplication. But the first thing that came to my head was: ‘Alright then, Matt, Waitress Lady, what is 22 x 22?’
Now I say that wasn’t very tricky, but even as I type this I’m going to have to get out the old po-cal (pocket calculator yo) and check the answer.
My poor old Dad. All he ever wanted was a maths genius for a daughter. He tried to explain to me a dozen times (a maths term for him there) simple equations for doing multiple mathematics in one’s head. Divide one number, double the other, carry the ten, THINK, WOMAN, THINK! But in my fear of disappointing him, my brain would go into panic mode and literally start melting while I began spurting out my two times table in the vain hope it would impress him. It didn't.
Whenever I have to do maths now, my palms sweat. But I can still dish it out in Thai restaurants to other people, be they strangers or friends.
So where were we? 22 x 22, come on!
Matt looks skyward for a second, his brain doing a little multiply all over it’s own frontal lobe.
Our waitress, on the other very impressive hand, needed no such second. Within an instant, without even a flicker of hesitation, she said ‘484.’
Now, like all good judges, I got my iphone out to check she wasn’t banking on my being too drunk to know if she was right.
And by jove, she only bloody was right.
Suitably impressed, we asked her how she did it. ‘In China, we’re not allowed calculators, we have to learn how to do mathematics quickly, in our heads.’
Wow, that’s some pretty impressive education. Although I guess it meant she missed out on what we all know happens if you type 5318008 into your Casio.
She left the table and we returned to poking fun at Matt for being so stupid at maths he took a split second too long to work it out and got beaten by a girl.
Packing up to leave, we did as all good dinner parties do and discussed the tip.
Inebriated, we decided our waitress would love it if we left her £4.84
But, the worry was, what if she just scooped it up without realising what a meaningful tip it was? That would be a calamity. We didn’t want her to think it was just lose shrapnel. This tip had meaning. It was probably going to be her most meaningful tip of the night, we couldn’t leave unsure as to whether or not she’d notice it after we’d gone.
‘Don’t worry guys, leave it to me,’ I said, putting on my jacket. I do love making speeches, even to an audience of one.
On our way out, I went over to our waitress and said, with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop: 'Excuse me, sorry to interrupt, just wanted to say thanks ever so much for the dinner and the mathematics. We’ve left you a very special present on the table.’
Confident that I was probably the best person in the room at that moment, I patted her on what may have been her head but was intended to be her shoulders, she was very short, and walked out. I think I might have even tried to wink at her.
A few steps from the restaurant old Maths Whizz Matt stumbles upon another great mathematical moment.
‘£4.84, while amusing and in reference to her impressive calculative skills, was less than a 5% tip. She probably would have preferred it if we’d just given her a decent tip.’
Good work Matt. There was I, Mother Teresa, dishing out donations, speeches and winks, and it takes you five minutes to work that out? I take no responsibility for it myself – my palms were already sweating at the thought.
"The composition of my soul is made, too great for servile, avaricious trade.
When raving in the lunacy of ink, I catch my pen and publish what I think."
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