Bob’s days are numbered ­ literally

Bob's days are numbered � literally by Bob Karolevitz I�ve been inundated with numbers ever since I was spanked into existence at something like 7 pounds, 8 ounces eons ago.

Now I think babies get a Social Security number as soon as they are born, and I didn�t get mine until I set pins at a local bowling alley in the �30s.

I still remember my two Army serial numbers, although I�ve forgotten the one for my rifle which we once had to memorize.

Since then I�ve been deluged with telephone numbers, license numbers, bank account numbers and house numbers. Incidentally, we now live at 44342 � 370th Street, which is a crazy address for a town of 89 people, give or take a few.

I finally learned the zip code � more numbers � and then they added four more digits.

Our credit cards have different numbers, and so do our charge accounts at Penney�s, QWest, Sioux Valley Wireless, Sinclair and Texaco. Our Elks, VFW, American Legion, Knights of Columbus, AARP and Korean War Veterans Association memberships all have numerical designations.

I�ve given up trying to remember any of them.

If I had a computer, I�d probably use up most of its memory just storing the numbers I already have.

Sometimes I wish the Egyptians and Mesopotamians wouldn�t have started it all with their symbols more than 5,000 years ago. Thank goodness 911 is so simple. They could have complicated it by adding all sorts of numerical prefixes, but they didn�t. Even I can remember it.

Of course mathematicians couldn�t do their work without numbers and the alphabet thrown in. I�ll go along with that, but I left all that stuff behind in high school algebra. I�ve got enough trouble just trying to cope with my monthly checkbook statements. They�re full of numbers, too.

When I go to the clinic, the nurse gives me my blood pressure reading as something over something which I�ve never been able to understand. I also don�t know what they mean by the 38-23-38 measurements which I think I read in the Victoria�s Secret catalog.

Now the scam artists have a �science� called numerology for which I once paid $11.32 to find out what my numbers stood for. Phyllis didn�t approve of that or the Victoria�s Secret catalog either.

I�ll close this column with another number: the journalistic 30. Actually the origin of that symbol has never been truly established, and to make this piece sort of educational, I�ll tell you about the many varied explanations for it.

One of the most plausible is that it comes from an old telegrapher�s code signifying the end of a transmission, although no one seems to know how that got started either. Another originated with an early practice of the Associated Press to send out 30 stories each day to member papers. When that total was reached, it was so indicated by a number.

There were more romantic versions, too: the code number of a telegraph operator during the Civil War who worked as a secret agent; the mis-printing of the symbol �80� which an East Indian company supposedly used to express farewell; and the heroic telegrapher (No. 30) who stayed at his post during a disaster for 30 hours until signing off just before his death.

One of those choices is apparently how the number 30 to end up a story came about, but I�ve got a more serious question.

Just what does that 38-23-38 stand for?

� 2002 Robert F. Karolevitz

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