He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.

Did anyone hear me yelling a few days ago? I yelled out of frustration with myself as much as with my husband…

…because once again he managed to confuse our so-called “smart” tv by pushing the wrong buttons on the [cable] remote. I’m not smart enough to know what’s wrong, so I can’t fix it.”

After stewing about the problem for days, I finally got smart and photographed the television screen with its various error messages. Then I gathered up the remotes and my smart phone and went to the shop where we bought the tv. I explained how the remote got bungled and asked if there was such a thing as a remote with on/off and channel/volume choices only? I laughed, but I wasn’t kidding.

The owner wasn’t kidding either when he suggested he might be able to disable the two problem buttons so they wouldn’t function at all.

“Go for it,” I said. Five minutes later he was done. I giggled when he told me he’d taped over the tiny printed circuit boards. “My husband was an electrical engineer for forty years,” I said. “At one time, problem-solving, printed circuit boards and codes were his expertise.” I put my sunglasses on quickly to hide the tears that flooded my eyes at the irony.

That evening, even with television viewing possible again, I suggested we go to a movie. “‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ is playing,” I said. “Remember, we saw the previews…about a math genius. You thought it looked interesting.”

Peter nodded. “I do remember. Yes. Let’s go.” He was as surprised as I was that he remembered, but he’s always been numbers man. He can still count backwards by sevens from one hundred easily, a skill that is rated on Alzheimer’s assessments.

The movie was absolutely engrossing. One review gave it two stars, but I gave it five on a four-star scale. I peeked at Peter throughout. He never once nodded off. Every so often I asked if he understood what they were talking about because I certainly didn’t. He did.

On the way home, I asked again if he really understood all the terms — partitions, proofs, integers, numbers theory — gobbledygook to me. He laughed. “Course I did,” he said, “but that was way before my time.”

The brilliant minds of Srinivasa Ramanujan and G.H. Hardy (Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons) are beyond my ken, but I appreciate their story. I cried at the end. I almost never cry at movies.

The five partitions of the number four
1+1+1+1  |   1+1+2   |   1+3   |   2+2  |  4

Header photo: Outsmart the smart tv.

2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist. 


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