Old math doesn’t always add up

Old math doesn't always add up by Bob Karolevitz Phyllis hates numbers. That�s why I get to handle all our family finances.

And that includes getting our stuff ready for the income tax man, too.

In the process I have to add up columns of figures � and that�s where the electric calculator comes in.

Frankly, I don�t trust it!

When you�ve tallied up the numbers on that blankety-blank machine � for the third or fourth time � and they always come up with different answers, I resort to the tried-and-true method I learned in grade school.

It�s called addition, and I use my fingers a lot. I suppose it would be so much easier to use a technological gadget than to do it the old-fashioned way, but I�m convinced that the decisions aren�t the same. Nor can I trust them as much as I can when I do it the hard way.

Maybe I�m pushing the wrong buttons? Or it could be the calculator is on the fritz? All I know is that the totals don�t usually jibe.

I�ve watched gals with flying fingers using the dastardly devices without even looking. They don�t go back over their work again either. They have more faith in their ability � and their calculators � than I do.

Me? I�ve got to see each individual digit I press, and then I don�t have confidence in my own eyes. I have to go over the results a time or two � or three � to make sure totals came out right.

What should be an hour�s job turns out to be a two-day nightmare!

But being bullheaded, I persist. I can�t admit to Phyllis that I�m out of my league as a financier.

Of course, the figures I add up come from the pages in our checkbook � and that isn�t all cut and dried either. I�ve got to determine if it�s deductible or isn�t it. Should I declare it or shouldn�t I? The decisions are killing me.

Mostly I have an inordinate fear of an audit. Before I am through, I envision myself as Enron without a bunch of lawyers to defend me. I long for a simple W-2 form and electronic filing � but then I�d have to go to work each day instead of being a freelance writer which is how I got into this bind in the first place.

Phyllis wonders why I get so jittery when I prepare for our income tax meeting with the CPA.

�What�s to worry?� she says. �I don�t think the IRS is remotely interested in our little pittance. You�re making a mountain out of a molehill.�

Then I tell her about my dream. In it I�m whisked away in chains by a couple of burly federal agents to the prison at Abu Ghraib � all because that #@!*(�& calculator didn�t come up with the right answers.

That�s why I check and recheck my addition over and over again. It might have been a dream, but it seemed awfully real to me.

And so I return to work, on a desk that�s really messier than it usually is. Somehow, sometime, the annual task will be finished, though, and I can go back to being my usual sunny self.

Phyllis, of course, has something to say about that, too, but I�ll spare you the details.

� 2005 Robert F. Karolevitz

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