Our lives are ruled by numbers and minor bits of chaos ensue if we forget or lose our numbers. Most of us develop complicated mnemonics to help us keep the numbers in mind. Our grandson has only one number fixed in his actual, inside his head memory: his mother’s mobile number! Sensible lad!
I was reminded of this when I received a message this morning from a former student. She had met a young man, a Spaniard, when she was out and about. He told her that he was looking for a reading group so that he could get involved in some conversation and also said he was interested in finding a way of setting up an exchange of some kind. My former student thought of me on both counts; she knows I go to a reading group, organised by another of her former teachers and that, back when I was a teacher, I organised exchanges.
I could help with the reading group if she put me in contact with the young man in question but I think my exchange-organising days are long gone.
She had noted down his number. In the middle of writing her message to me she realised that she had accidentally deleted the last digit of the young man’s number. She sent me the message anyway just in case, so she said, I happened to be wandering the streets of Eccles (unlikely) and came across a young Spaniard called Maxi!!!
Now, if she had really noted down his number, on a piece of paper in a notebook or diary, she would not have deleted the final digit. But, a modern girl - she always was a modern girl, even when she was just a sixth-form student - she had entered it into her phone. I suppose that, if she were really determined to get in touch with Maxi, if it were a case of her having fallen desperately in love, she could have made ten phone calls, each with a different final digit, until Maxi eventually answered.
But no, Maxi will never receive the information about the Winston Smith Reading Group.
Another numbers-related thing occurred the other day. I was standing at the checkout in the Eroski supermarket, waiting my turn. Ahead of me, a young woman was buying boxes of chocolates. She wanted to pay with the credit in her Eroski loyalty card. This being Spain, in order to do this she had to show some ID and the cashier had to enter the number on the ID card into the till. Of course, this does not happen in the more carefree UK supermarkets. I have no idea what happens in other EU countries.
Well, that’s when the trouble started. The number on the ID and the number registered on the Eroski card did not match! Oops! No possibility of using the credit. Was the young lady sure it was her Eroski card? Was it perhaps her boyfriend’s card?
At this point the young lady, rather confused by it all, asked the cashier if she spoke English. No she didn’t. Costa Coffee baristas in Porto airport might well manage several languages but not girls who work on the tills in Eroski. So I offered to help. After all, I might otherwise have been there for hours.
The young lady, who turned out to be a student from the Ukraine, thought she might have applied for the Eroski card using her passport. She did not have her passport with her as she did not want to risk losing it and found that for most things her student card was enough for identification purposes. But she wanted to use her Eroski credit, about seven Euros, as she was about to leave Spain and, after all, seven euros is seven euros! Could she come back later with her passport and try again? Okay, sorted!
Numbers can, as I said, cause problems!