Thursday, November 8, 2012

Takin' a Kat to School

My weekend held the promise of success, or the potential for complete and utter disaster.

Thor hosted a game tournament at his house on Saturday.  Not wanting to humiliate him or his friends with my wicked gaming skills, I decided to take my laptop and use the day to do some much-needed research.  On my way out the door, my Firefighter Exam Prep Book caught my eye.  Well, why not.  I threw it in the cat bag that my first grade teacher made for me in 1977.  Yes, I still have it, and yes, I still use it.

Anyhow, I settled into a comfy chair with a Cherry Coke Zero, my laptop and my spiral notebook with Sasquatch on it.  (This is where I make all my important notes.)  I fired up said laptop, and guess what – Thor is having router issues.  No WIFI for Kat.  Since he was moderately occupied, involved in a game where the words are in English but strung together in a fashion as to make sense to no one outside the circle of tables, I decided not to have a Kat fit and insist that he help me.   I instead looked for other forms of entertainment.

Five seconds later, having exhausted all other forms of entertainment, I looked in my bag.  The Book stared back at me, unblinking.  The edges of its pages curled back as in a defiant sneer.  You don’t have it, Kat.  You can’t do the math.  Surrender now.

I pulled it from the bag slowly, my mind having ceded the victory long ago.  I knew what lay ahead.  Fire Math.  Fire Science.  Physics and Geometry.  The properties of water, chemical reactions.  Mechanical advantage; gears; pulleys.  FULCRUMS.  But I have obligated myself to working through this, and work through it I must.

I stayed in the comfy chair for, oh, 15 minutes or so, reading through formulas and trying to memorize diagrams.  However, the periphery conversations kept creeping into my consciousness …”my Swamp Seeker can defeat your Landfill Elf because I have a Magenta Magic Pill card.” “What are you doing??  You know you can’t imprison Yakunamawarundaduba!” “HA HA! I’ve got the Elixir of Vad!  Die, fool!” So I beat a hasty retreat to Thor’s room and curled up on his bed with the cat.

Thor, being the attentive boyfriend that he is, brought me another diet pop and checked on me frequently.  At one point we had what felt like a 45-minute discussion about the labels on a diagram of a triangle.  It was the low point of our relationship.  He went back to his guests, and I started talking to the cat. “I can’t do this.  It’s too hard.”  And then I cried.   Serious as a heart attack, I sat on my boyfriend’s bed and cried about my homework.

Let me insert a thought here – the cat has never really liked me.  She regards me as competition for her master’s affection – and rightly so.  She tolerates me in his presence; mocks me in his absence.   More than once I’ve woken up unable to move because a cat has contorted itself around my feet.  I am sure her goal is that, in my groggy condition, I will attempt to rise, become entangled in her furry little body, and suffer a fatal fall.   In turn, I’ve “helped” her get out of the way when I’m coming up the stairs, and she tends to accidentally fall off the couch when I’m around.   Of course, my kids universally love the cat.  There’s no loyalty in the world anymore.

So this was the scene.  I was crying on the shoulder of the feline version of Leona Helmsley, my diet pop had gotten warm, and I couldn’t figure out how to calculate mechanical advantage.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.  The animal regarded me in that way only a cat can – a well-practiced stare which tells me that when cats take over the world, I will be the first to go.  When I saw those condescending eyes lower from my tear-stained face to my exam book, and then I swear to gawd, she rolled them – something snapped.  I might cower in the presence of abstract mathematics, but a damn cat isn’t going to take me down.

I decided to stop studying and start equating.  I turned to the first of 48 questions and away I went.  This is an open book practice test (THANK GAWD) so I could flip back to the equations…figuring out how to wrap the story problem around those equations, well, that’s another matter entirely.  I read the first problem.  Firefighter Bob needs to know how much pressure to exert if he’s trying to lift an 800-pound box with a 40-inch lever, said box being 6 inches away from fulcrum.  I plugged in the numbers, did the math, and … my answer matched one of the 4 multiple-choice options.  My jaw dropped and I circled my answer before Thor’s Magic Tournament could permeate the bedroom door and cast some sort of anti-math spell.  And guess what – I did it again with number 2.  Number 3.  Number 4.

I faltered in the science section; some dufus in the exam prep book department decided it to word the questions as to force me to APPLY what I had learned, as opposed to just regurgitate facts.  Fool.  Anyhow, I answered all the questions and, with a shaking hand, graded my test.  As I had reached the point where I could no longer recognize numbers, let alone calculate with them, I told Thor my score.  He punched it into his phone and announced – “You got an 81.”

An 81.  I got an 81.  My goal was 90, I would settle for an 80, I expected a 60.

I AM A MATH GOD.  Take that, kitty cat.  Bite me, Landfill Elf.  I am Kat, hear me roar.

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