Has this ever happened to you?
You are at a checkout with goods costing, say, seven pounds (or dollars, euros, whatever) AND TWO PENCE (or cents, cents, whatever) so delve into your wallet – moths fly out – and withdraw a tenner (any currency).
Then, AS the girl (sorry, but it is usually a girl) rings up said tenner (which causes the till to read “change 2:98”) you dip into your change and give her the two pence (cents…) – thinking to HELP her.
Except now, it all goes pear-shaped. Her face blanks. She stares at the till display. Gets out a calculator. Pokes it for a few minutes. Steam emerges from her ears. She calls over the girl on the neighbouring till – but SHE cannot work it out either.
You try to show her that all she needs to do is give you three quid, bucks or whatever the slang for euros is – and you can be on your way.
Eventually, you take your two wotsits BACK and accept her ninety-eight in change and either stomp off muttering about no good deed ever going unpunished – or add the two to the ninety-eight and ask her to now please CHANGE it for a SINGLE pound, dollar, euro…
At which point you watch her slowly count the coins UP – even though they are the same ninety-eight she just GAVE you – with TWO ADDED.
Yes, I have actually had this happen to me. And just today, I read an almost IDENTICAL account from someone else…
Of course, it does not take a genius to work out what is happening here.
In My Day – the mid-Sixties – we HAD pocket calculators. Except they were MECHANICAL; they had a metal stylus and worked with a series of toothed slides in a flat case. Impossible to find today, having been made utterly POINTLESS by the electronic variety, a decade later. They looked like this…
And I began using one at school – until my maths teacher saw it and set me STRAIGHT. No, he did not BAN me from using it; he merely pointed out that if I used it routinely, I would soon become DEPENDANT upon it, LOSING the ability to DO “mental arithmetic” – and I could not always guarantee HAVING a calculator ON me.
Which of course, was right – and so I stopped using the tool completely.
The result being, I can SEE that adding two to ninety-eight…
Anyhoo, a few years after I finished school, the electronic calculators emerged, quickly became user-friendly and thanks to competition, easily AFFORDABLE. I bought one – the first of several – although I still do most of my day-to-day computing in my HEAD.
But I recall how, back in the Seventies, whether or not to allow them in schools became a hotly contested issue. How it was settled, I have no idea. But clearly SOME schools now allow them – and have proven that my maths teacher was ONE HUNDRED PERCENT CORRECT!