L'enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions
I was buying the paper this morning. At a CVS on Connecticut Ave, near Politics and Prose.
The paper is 35 cents plus 2 cents tax for a total of 37 cents. I give the girl behind the counter one dollar and then as she is typing the amount in the machine, I find 7 cents and tell her "Wait! I have 7 cents" expecting an easier transaction. In fact, she looks puzzled. "How much should I give you back?" she is asking. I tell her "Well, I gave you 1 $ 07 and the paper cost 37 cents so you owe me 1$07 MINUS 37 cents and that's..." I want to let her do the math. She is about 15 or 16 years old. She probably knows how to subtract. She rushes to her pocket calculator as I say. "No, you can do it! I'll help you." I'm in my "teacher mode" now, working slowly with the numbers to make her understand. "How much is 10 minus 3 ?" I ask. When she answers "5", I just ask again. "Don't try to guess, count even on your hand if you have to". She obliges.
I turn around to apologize to the man behind me. I smile while saying that I hope he won't mind but it is important. "Teaching maths to a young mind". He does mind and calls someone to open a new line. I'm undeterred and keep explaining to the girl how to get the result that she needs. I've now got a pen, a paper and I'm scribbling on it, explaining as I write. "So you see, I gave you 7 cents extra from the dollars so that takes care of of the 7 cents extra from 30 cents of the paper". She sees but after telling me that 10 -3 is indeed 7, she cannot tell me that 1$ -30 cents is 70 cents.
After a full 2 minutes of explanations, she finally gets it and says 70 cents. I smile happy and convinced to have done good. As I get my money back (she did gave me the correct change), I ask her "Which grade are you?". Her answer takes me aback. "Twelve grade". I cannot help but joke "Twelve grade! What have you been doing for these 12 years?" Her smile vanishes. She looks at me straight and says with a clear voice "I have a learning disability". I do not know what to say so I just nod my head, feeling embarrassed. As I leave the store, I notice a woman in the line glaring at me with her eyes sending me insults and reproaches.