Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When Things Just Don’t Add Up

Today’s post is a frivolous little thing, just a bit of a mystery that I can’t solve. I can’t solve it in spite of my affinity for math, my profession as an accountant, and my proclivity for managing money relatively well.

For you non-math types, this is going to be one of those (gasp) word problems that are so reviled by the non-math among us. I don’t know that it will help you that this is from real life or not, but it is. Every single thing I am about to tell you is real, factual, a truth. There will be no exaggerations, no intentional misdirection, no tricks up my sleeve. Yet things just don’t add up.

This mystery started out yesterday at lunchtime when I had some errands to run. I had with me my wallet which contains all the precious cards (drivers license, debit card, Game Stop member card, bus pass, and the like), my cell phone, and all the cash I currently had. All of these things were stored in one of my pockets. The first thing I did on my lunch break was assess my current cash situation. I checked every pocket, put all the money together to come up with two $5 bills, 3 $1 bills and some assorted change. I set the change aside and ignored it. I had $13 total. This was not enough for what I needed so I went to the ATM. I took out $100. I counted it, 5 $20 bills, before I drove away as I always do since I don’t trust anyone, even a machine, to do things correctly. So at this point, I add the twenties to the rest, for a total of $113. So far so good.

My next stop is the pharmacy where I made a purchase for $31 and some cents. I handed the cashier two $20 bills. She gave me back change, both bills and coins (that I didn’t bother to double check), that I stuffed into my pocket. On my way back to work I drove through a local fast food place and purchased $5.17 worth of lunch. I handed the cashier $6 and told him to keep the change.

Although I didn’t count I would have expected that at this point I would have had the following paper money left:
3 $20s = $60 (handed 2 to the cashier at the pharmacy, leaving 3)
2 $5s = $10 (original 2 as I used the 1 I received in change at the pharmacy to purchase lunch)
5 $1s = $5 (original 3 plus 3 back from pharmacy less 1 for lunch purchase)
TOTAL = $75

Also, calculating my various ins and outs (ignoring the coins) it looks like this:

So that afternoon I leave work assuming I have $75 plus some loose coinage. I stop on the way home from work and purchase dinner for $4.08. I give the cashier $5.08 and received $1 in change. At this point I thought I had $71 plus some loose coinage.

N and I went to last night’s Illini debacle basketball game with Purdue. I pulled $5 out and gave to the parking attendant. Now I should’ve had $66. As N and I walked towards the Assembly Hall I was enticed by the offer of front row seats. After haggling, they were mine for $60. I pulled my money from my pocket and peeled off 3 $20s. At that point I was surprised to see there was still a $20 left. Huh? I shrugged it off, my mind elsewhere on a screaming match argument discussion W and I had prior to me leaving for the game, but as I think back I would’ve thought I was down to $6 if I’d given it any thought.

Once at the game I was so immersed in the game that I thought no more about it until N started wheedling for something from the concession stand. I finally told him that when halftime came I’d see what money I had, and we’d see. Maybe he could have a little something. When I checked my pocket at halftime there was not one, but THREE $20 bills along with my $5 and $1.

So the question my dear math friends is this: how did I end up with that money? I have thought and rethought this thing through, and I just don’t get it! I have no idea how I ended up with $60 more than I thought had. I have no idea. None at all. I mean, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but c’mon. This is a mystery. . . a huge mystery to me. Math does not work this way. You add, you subtract, and in the end the answer makes sense. This is not calculus. We aren’t discussing imaginary numbers. This is simple addition and subtraction. How can this possibly be? Am I missing something here? Is it as plain as the nose on your face, and I’m just not seeing it? Did someone slip some money into my pocket (ala a reverse pickpocket)? Did I or someone else with whom I interacted yesterday grossly miscount as transactions took place? Did some leprechaun find my pocket a great place to stash his money? What possible explanation is there?

I am so confused.


Summer said...

I want that leprechaun to visit me!

Nancy said...

And when he's done at Summer's house, send him to mine!