Robert Galvin: You were told there would be math

·5 min read

Nov. 29—There are three types of people in the world — those who are fascinated with numbers, and those who aren't.

I'm squarely in the top 20 percent of that first quadrant. Since I was eight years old in Miss Morway's fourth-grade class, some numbers have seemingly fallen out the sky and landed at my feet — as though they were the spark I needed to launch into the 5 W's of any given mystery.

No, that's not right. ... I was nine.

Sometimes, the who, what, when, where and how of a statistical oddity wouldn't readily present themselves.

Why is it, for instance, that only with six you get egg roll? What if you have seven? And shouldn't that title really have been "egg rolls"? I mean, one egg roll isn't going to be near enough for two parents, four kids, their maid and a dog.

Wait ... that's eight. So, they don't even qualify for the one egg roll?

Other times, you'd see a series of seemingly random numbers — say ... 16, 33 1/3, 45, 78 — and be compelled to find out how they came to be, and why whoever it was that came up with that system didn't just skip the "third" when discussing album revolutions ... since fractions only lead to headaches.

Mostly, though, we're captivated by big, round numbers — the bigger and rounder the better.

Pictures aren't worth 789 words. If your parents had told you something once, they hadn't told you 951,413 times. You don't start singing about 106 bottles of beer on the wall.

Speaking of things falling from the sky — trust me, we spoke about it somewhere — this past Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of the night the skyjacker referred to as D.B. Cooper exited a Northwest Orient Airlines 727 while some 10,000 feet up somewhere between Seattle and Reno with $200,000 in unmarked $20 bills.

50 ... 10,000 ... 200,000 ... 20 ... round numbers all which, for some reason, makes this anniversary of the Hijacking of Flight 305 worthy of far more media attention than the 49th or, probably, the 51st.

Cooper must have been as high as a kite to think he could have survived the jump ... and, even if he did, what was he going to do with 10,000 double-sawbucks?

Well, I mean ... legally.

Two-hundred-thousand dollars was a big, round number back in 1971 — although today it would be worth about $1,365,871.60 ... which isn't big or round enough to spark much in the way of creativity.

But when it came to pass that a really big, really round number ... FIVE HUNDRED MILLION ... landed at my feet (twice!) recently — well, the four-year-old ninth-grader in me just had to stand up and take notice.

Yep, when it was announced that a weeks-long, multi-agency operation had not only cracked down on a motherlode of illegally processed marijuana, but that 500,000,000 pounds of the stuff had been confiscated, the abacus in my head, in the immortal words of Daisy May Moses, commenced to figurin'.

Speaking of being higher than a kite, a study cited by Science Daily back in 2016 claims that the average joint contains 0.32 grams of pot.

A single pound equals 453.592 grams.

So the 500,000,000 pounds found spread among five warehouses outside of White City equals 226,796,000,000 grams, give or take a bud ... which ultimately would yield somewhere in the neighborhood of 708,737,500,000 joints.

YRMV.

Now let's say that you can't imagine rolling 708,737,500,000 joints without fearing the onslaught of incurable carpal tunnel syndrome.

Instead, you just wanted to roll all 500,000,000 pounds into one ball. You'd end up with a certain roadside attraction — one that would be 25,000 times heavier than the disputed largest ball of twine in the United States ... the one that grows annually in Cawker City, Kansas, which has a diameter of 41.5 feet.

I'm not sure it's worth driving the 1,587 miles or so from White City to Cawker City just to see it ... although the attraction is said to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is only a hop, skip and a jump to the Haunted House at the Geisler Museum.

Law enforcement officials estimated the street value of the confiscated pot (not the ball of twine) to be at $500 million ... basically the net worth of one of your low-rent Kardashians, or $26 million more than the budget for Jackson County.

Usually when I resort to using numbers, I tend to heed the advice of Oregon folksinger Todd Snider when it comes to going back and double-checking my work:

"They say 65 percent of all statistics are made up right there on the spot," Snider wrote. "82.4 percent of people believe'em, whether they're accurate statistics or not."

So, I'll leave the heavy lifting to others since after getting this far I have the sudden urge, in the words of Daisy May Moses, to fix me up some vittles.

The staff at rgalvin@mailtribune.com advises that 42 is the correct answer, regardless of the question.

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