Wednesday, March 21, 2012

By the Numbers

About 20 years ago, I was assigned to do a story about the largest gathering of computer programmers ever held.

Wardman Park Hotel
The most memorable thing to me about that conference in the Wardman Park Hotel (now the Marriott Wardman Park) was the fifteen minute coffee break half way through the morning session. There were about 300 people gathered in the ballroom drinking coffee.....and if it hadn't been for the clinking of spoons and chinaware, there would have been almost no sound at all. And there was absolutely NO LAUGHTER whatsoever during the entire 15 minutes.

A couple of weeks later, I was scheduled to cover the finals of the Nationwide Math contest, featuring the nation's top high school math students. As I drove to the hotel where the conference was being held, I was wondering if I might see that same pattern of “seriousness“ among the young mental geniuses as well.

I was also wondering which executive at the TV station I had ticked off enough to get such choice assignments.

Well, the young mathematicians turned out to act just like average kids, lots of goofing off, lots of laughter.

Scott Flansburg

One of the speakers that day was a fellow named Scott Flansburg. He was billed as “The Human Calculator.” He became pretty famous a few years later, but at the time was known only to the mathematics community. After I had interviewed him for my feature, he said that if I told him the date of my birth, he could figure up in his head....on what DAY I was born.

So, I gave him the date......and he began to calculate. I could almost hear the wheels turning in his brain.

After about 20 seconds, he announced, “You were born on a MONDAY!”

“Nope,” I replied. I was born on a SUNDAY.

But, he was close.

Sunday's Child
I knew I had been born on a Sunday because my  Mom had told me many times that it had happened at exactly 6:15 am that day in 1936.   “Yes, Ed, you were a Sunday Child.”

"But the child born on the Sabbath Day,
is fair and wise and good and gay.”
-Nursery Rhyme

And, three out of four ain't bad.

A few weeks later I was visiting my Mom in Charlotte and told her that story. Again, she confirmed that I was born on a Sunday. She would never forget something like that. She said that my father was off from work because of the weekend and it was shortly after they had returned from church that day when the labor pains began.

“Then you must be mistaken about the time of my birth.”

“No, absolutely not. I think it's even on your birth were born at 6:15 am.”

At that point we both realized that nature, as if often does, erases the memory of intense pain;
Otherwise, it's said that there would never be families with more than one child.

So, the human calculator had been right. I was born on a Monday.

It wasn't the same as a kid learning that he's adopted or anything like that, but...

Well, all these years I was thinking I was fair and wise...and good...and ”happy “ (before the word gay was stolen from us.)

"Monday's Child is fair of face,
Tuesday's Child is full of grace,
Wednesday's Child is full of woe,
Thursday's Child has far to go,
Friday's Child is loving and giving,
Saturday's Child works hard for a living,
But the child born on the Sabbath Day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay."

Monday's Child
                                                       -Nursery Rhyme

...and now, at age 55,  I found out that I was just “fair of face!”

And what the heck does fair of face mean? No pimples? Who ever heard of a good looking man or woman being called fair of face?

What a come down!  I was devastated. I even considered changing my name.

But I had already done that.    -Ed