Saturday, February 04, 2006

more about numbers

What's with all these unusual sequences of numbers we are required to incorporate into our lives? I think it’s strange; we are expected to track all of these weird groupings of numbers that reference some aspect of our lives, or defines who we are in a weird binary way. Your health record number is 356-29-798 and your employee ID number is 82174 and your electric service account number is 006-57958135 your customer care number for the items your returned is 8007-4159-7 and the list goes on and on. How about the essential number combinations, like phone numbers, bank account numbers, pin numbers, all those we take for granted and use several times daily, without even thinking about it! And to add to the madness, some people choose to bring more numbers into their life, for example, people that play the lottery—and I’m not talking about the scratch-off tickets, although one has to wonder what the long term effects of touching and possibly ingesting the silvery scratch-off stuff is compared to getting a winning ticket every once in a while. The 50 bucks you could win from one of those cards isn’t worth the medical care you’ll need after that silvery scratchy stuff gives you cancer. Has anyone ever tested that stuff to see where it’s toxicity is at?

My dad’s really into scratch-off cards. But I digress; that wasn’t where I was going with the number thing. I’ll get back to my dad later. The number insanity I was referring to were the elaborate drawing lotteries, where everyone waits on lines in convenience stores all over the nation to participate in their state’s 194 million or 342 million or 62 million lottery drawing, and has to pick like 6 or 7 or 10 different numbers between 1 and who knows what in the double digits. An equal opportunist lazy person can select the “quick pick” option on the manual form, and let the computer decide for them. Either way, the purchaser gives the little slip filled out with the little pencil to the cashier, who punches the request into the giant special hulking lotto machine. After some printing noises and a cash transaction involving an amount of money I’m still not clear on, the clerk hands back a ticket or something that officially states your numerical selection. At some pre-determined time that also isn’t clear to me, a smiling woman in a nice dress is televised, as she adjusts the numbered ping-pong balls that the machine spits showing the winning combination. They show groups of numbers that look like this: 42 12 6 62 33 36 10 7. Some people are really into it, but I think it gets too thick to think sometimes, all the numbers swirling around my head.

The only thing more ridiculous then the array of number combinations that take unconscious precedence in our lives are the situations where they mix numbers with letters. When the letters case-sensitivity matters, that is completely obscene. Fortunately, the only places I’ve even encountered numbers mixed with case-sensitive letters are passwords or session id numbers. I have a password for a website that is something like v6u93LU2, looking at a number arrangement like that evokes a weird scared feeling. Almost as if the mix of numbers and case-sensitive letters are powerful, authoritative entities, hypnotizing me with subtle fear or nervous negative anxiety. Upper case letters mixed with numbers are just cumbersome, tedious beings. I knew of an AT&T customer number that was 7955313-LE, or every time I wanted to request some office supplies at one job I worked at I needed to write in our department code, which was 1129-SA6-PTLD. I mostly felt sorry for those number and upper-case letter groups. I can’t say I’ve encountered any all lower-case letter and number groups; I’ll have to think about that one. I’m sure they’ve crept and leaked into some aspect of my life at some point.

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