Innumeracy

I’m at Burger King, trying to grab a bite to eat in-between classes on a particularly busy Wednesday.   I walk up to the cashier and, knowing the usual battery of questions he will ask, announce  “I’ll have a Whopper combo… no cheese… King size… with fries… for here.”

The guy at the register,  who  bears an uncanny resemblance to the squeaky-voiced pimple-faced cashier Jeremy Freedman from The Simpsons, dutifully punched the buttons on the register before announcing “That’ll be $6.29.”

“No it won’t.   It’ll be $5.76,” I reply.   I’ve ordered this before.

“Oh,” says Jeremy, looking a little uncertain.   “What was that order again?”

I repeat it.   “Whopper combo… no cheese… King size… with fries… for here.”

Jeremy pushes the buttons again, being very thoughtful and deliberate.   “That’ll be $6.29.”

“No, it won’t.   Maybe you added cheese?”

“Um, no.   It says $6.29.”

“I’ll grant that,” I reply, “but the cost is $5.76.”

“But it says $6.29.”

I sigh.   It is clear that it’s not worth repeating the order, since Jeremy will punch the buttons in the same erroneous order.   I instead try a different path.

“It cannot be more than six dollars.”

“But it says—” stars Jeremy, pointing an accusatory finger at the cash register.

“Let’s reason this through,” I interrupt.   Jeremy looks concerned.   I begin.   “The cost of a Whopper combo without cheese is…”

Jeremy continues to looks confused, and reaches to push more buttons.

“$4.39, according to the menu above you,” I add helpfully.   “Add 99 cents for the king sizing, and that’s $5.38.   Adding 7% sales tax gives not more than 50 cents, so that cost is no greater than $5.88.”

“You didn’t add the cheese.”

“No, because I don’t want any.”

“You didn’t add the king fry.”

“Yes, I did.   That’s the 99 cents that, added to the $4.39 cost of the meal, brought the pre-tax total to $5.38.”

“You didn’t add the king drink.”

“Insofar as I understand the principle of king sizing, I am pretty sure it applies to both the fries and the drink.”

Jeremy pushes more buttons, this time in a different order.   “Okay, that’ll be $6.02.”

I suddenly occurs to me that I am in a black hole of dumb.   “No,” I reply, “it’ll still be $5.76. But this is getting closer.”

Jeremy tries again.   Clickity clickity clickity.   “Crap.   It’s back to  $6.29.”

I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes at this point.   “Aren’t there just numbers somewhere on that keyboard that you can add?”

Jeremy looks especially flustered at the concept of “numbers” and “adding” them.   He tries another slew of buttons, pushing pictures of hamburgers and french fries and condiments in various orders.   “Um, is $5.83 okay?”

“Sure.”

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