Herald and Journal
Herald & Journal, February 1, 1999

Deep in the numbers game

By MYRON HEUER

Back during my school days, while struggling with arithmetic and, later, mathematics, I had no idea how numbers would control my life in later years.

I think my first important encounter with numbers was when I got my Social Security number. Eventually, those nine digits assigned to me were burned into my brain.

There are so many times you have to remember that number. However, the Veterans Administration has made it a bit easier.

"What is your final four?" they ask.

At first, I thought they were quizzing me on the identity of the final four college basketball teams. But using the final four Social Security numbers apparently makes it easier for filing your records.

Other numbers that control your life are zip codes and telephone numbers. When the zip code was invented, we were living in Shenandoah, Iowa. I still remember the number . . . 51601. But I don't remember subsequent zip code numbers as we moved from place to place.

Telephone numbers are worse. We moved here from Howard Lake about a year and a half ago. I don't remember the phone number we had. I'm having a hard time remembering our current number.

By the time I remember my car license number, I get a new set. In some cases, your driver's license number is the same as your Social Security number. Even medicare uses your Social Security number. Makes sense.

A number you are familiar with for just a few days is a lottery number. House numbers are a pain. You either can't find them or they're missing from the house. Finding house numbers at night is impossible. If you use a flashlight you're liable to get picked up by the police thinking you might be a burglar.

But here's a real puzzler. It's been almost 50 years since an Army sergeant asked me for my Army serial number. I've had no reason to remember it. Matter of fact, I tried to forget it. But I still remember it . . . NG 28 028 525, sir. The NG stands for National Guard as I was a guard member when we were activated during the Korean War.

It is amazing how numbers affect your life.

By the way, what's the difference between arithmetic and mathematics?

* * *

Wisdom from Dennis the Menace: "When a chicken is sick, what kind of soup do they eat?"

* * *

Myron was hospitalized the past week. Well-wishers can write Myron at Watertown Memorial Hospital, 125 Hospital Drive, Watertown, WI 53098.


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