Learning in spite of yourself

Monday night in utter desperation I posted a request on Facebook for opinion column suggestions. So far I have not had a terrific response. Some folks have sent suggestions and “likes” about the suggestions of others, but no “grab ya’ by the neck” topics have surfaced.

However, I did have an interesting experience on Saturday afternoon when I went to the grocery store and it might be worthy of comment if my Facebook correspondents leave me high and dry.

In front of Peabody Market were a couple of Peabody Girl Scouts and a leader huddled under a blanket, selling their remaining boxes of Girl Scout cookies as the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. I made a purchase in the store and then went outside and decided to visit the Girl Scouts tented under the big blanket with cookies stacked on a table in front of them. I selected three boxes.

Amazingly enough, one of the two grade school-age scouts immediately knew the total of $3.50 times three and offered to bag them up for me. I handed her a $20 bill and guess what she did? She counted back my change! Not a computer, an adding machine, or a smart phone on the place, mind you. Glancing to her leader for assurance from time to time, the girl handed me two quarters and said, “10.50, 11,” and added ones to “… 15 …” and then she handed me a five dollar bill and said, “…and five makes 20.”

Bingo!

Do you know how long it has been since anyone younger than about 50 has counted back change to me? Well, I don’t know either, but it has been a darned long time!

So I would like to offer up a high-five to Peabody Girl Scouts leader Tina Spencer for teaching her scouts about more than just selling cookies. And I will toss up another high-five to the scouts who gamely make the attempt to count backwards when making change. It is a tough concept and I remember learning it myself in high school when I worked at J. C. Penney. I have always been mathematically challenged, and it took me a while to catch on.

You girls may think that no one will ever expect you to count back change like you have learned to do while selling Girl Scout cookies. After all, this is the age of technology and machines do everything for us. However, if you ever are stuck at a cash register when the power fails, I bet you will be the only one on the job who can make change without a pencil and paper to do the math.

Good for you! And I bet my Facebook friends can’t suggest a better topic than that.

— SUSAN MARSHALL

 

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