Sep 9, 2008
"What's a prime number?" This godforsaken question was asked of me on my first day back at tutoring for 826Seattle. Although the little girl was ten, adorable, and very intent on learning, I wanted to say DAMN BITCH WHY YOU GOTTA BE ALL UP IN MY GRILL. I came here to volunteer and make a difference in my community, not teach you about imaginary made-up numbers! Isn't that what volunteering is all about?
Allow me to share with you the intellectual thought process I went through to answer this simple question:
Prime number, prime number... FUCK, it has something to do with...numbers...that are in their prime. Of course they're in their fucking prime, idiot. Okay, being in your prime sounds lonely to me; someone at the top of their game, surrounded by no one. An elitist, maybe. So, a prime number is lonely. One is the loneliest number, or so the song will have you believe, so it's probably depressed, going inward. OH MY GOD, I'M A PRIME NUMBER. No, no, keep on track. An internal journey of one. A fucking Army of One. I hated that fucking slogan. STAY FOCUSED!--one one one one one...OH! A prime number is probably only divisible by ONE...and then... maybe... I guess also the number...itself?--since it's the only other number around? Is this even feasible? This sounds like something a real adult might say. This sounds barely legitimate, but I'm okay with that. Let me test the waters, since I've just been sitting here staring at this piece of paper for, um.... going on five minutes. Okay, here goes:
"Diana, what do YOU think a prime number is?" Classic bait-and-switch, my parents and therapists favored this approach, too. "Um, I think it's a number that is divisible by one and then by itself but nothing else." She looked at me expectantly. I nodded, trying to look wise and serene like Siddartha, or Splinter from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What, you thought I was going to PRAISE her? Hello, everyone knows what a prime number is.
Diana: "I'm confused!"
Me: "Tell me about it."
Diana: "I'm confused!"
Me: "I didn't mean that literally."
This is the perfect example of why I cannot pass a math class: it's not that I don't arrive at the answer, it's the amount of time and energy one must put into remembering something that a fourth grader already knows. Her next question: "So what's a composite number?" My answer: JESUS, WHY DON'T YOU JUST ASK ME HOW MUCH I WEIGH. Look, I'm a writer--I don't want numbers in my life unless they're piling up in my bank account.
Every kid I worked with today had a horrific amount of math to do; I soldiered through it like an Army of One, actually. I wish I could just give these kids some real life answers to their standard, homogenized questions. What's a noun? You're a noun. What is 3x(2x + 4)? It's a pile of shit that will get you nowhere, so let's get to work on your Myspace page; how else do you expect to meet anyone?
I have an old client from the spa who comes in for tutoring--that's right, a nine-year old client who used to see me for regular pedicures. It's weird, because she totally knows me, and her mom totally knows me, but we pretend like we're strangers. She's a precocious little person; her vocabulary is enormous and she's what old people would call 'whip-smart'. Much like at the spa, everything about her annoys me, but I don't know why. Probably because she reminds me of my adventures in underpaid indentured servitude.
When her mom came in to pick her up, she was wearing an ill-fitting top with an unflattering skirt; they walked behind me as the little girl was saying, "That outfit looks good, I'm glad you wore it." The mom said, "Thanks!" as the little girl continued, "...even thought it's way too tight on you." Out of the mouths of babes. If someone was that honest with me, especially a nine-year old, I would throw her off a bridge wearing concrete boots, and film it so the memory could last a lifetime.
The day went well. Met another tutor for coffee beforehand WHICH IS WHY I'S ALL JITTERY AN' SHIT (I'm not a coffee drinker), and now I'm watching over the 826 store--the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co.--until this writer's workshop is over. I love volunteering here; I get three hours of fun with the kiddos, and three hours of uninterrupted blogging time. Win/win. Plus, I get to tell people that I'm a tutor--more specifically, A MATH TUTOR--and then they're like OOOH YOU MUST BE HELLA SMART, GIRL and I'm all, WORD.