My six-inch Subway sandwich came to $3.22. Since I was in Sun Lakes Arizona at the time, I decided to act like a senior citizen, and pay with coins rather than break any new bills.
I dumped out all the change from my pocket on the counter and slowly started to stack the quarters.
The only thing that would have made it better would have been four or five people waiting in line behind me, but I was the only customer in the place.
“I’m not sure I have enough change,” I said, looking at the dimes, nickels, and pennies that remained.
“Yes you do,” said the young sandwich artist at the cash register.
“Really? Are you like, Rain Man?”
I immediately wondered if this guy was born after Rain Man was released; if he understood the reference at all.
“I love math,” he explained. “I’m a math major.”
He was right. I had $3.22 in coins with pennies and dimes to spare.
For me, encountering a math major is kind of like meeting a young wizard.
“I have a math problem,” I said to the sandwich artist. “I wonder if you could write it as an algebraic equation.” I added, “I solved this problem using brute force, but perhaps it’s a hard problem,” trying to sound like I know how to talk about math.
He seemed interested.
I proceeded, “Suppose you have five guys who all are turning 50 within two years of each other. How could you express an equation to determine the exact date that their cumulative ages was 250 years?”
“You start with the age of the youngest of the five, and…”
…and he lost me. But I tried not to let my eyes glaze over.
“Cool,” I said. And then I went and ate my sandwich. I figured I’d been an overly-talkative customer, just right up to the edge of weirdness. Toes right on the line.
Before I left, he came over to my table and handed me something written on the back of a receipt.