Being prime

Last year my age was divisible by 2 (more than once) and 13. The year before that by 3 and 17. The year before that by 5 (more than once) and 2. I could keep going, but I know if I do I will give some of you flashbacks to failed algebra quizzes.

The upshot is, that it has been six years since my age was a prime number.

It’s good to be prime, again.

Not that it really means anything in real life. Truth be told, most of the time our exact age has very little to do with much of anything. One can be happy or sad, successful or struggling, lost or in control at any age.

But numbers always speak to me. Folks who aren’t numbers people don’t quite get that. I know. I remember one time at my previous place of employment that the HR person had sent out an email about something to do with our benefits or taxes or something. The important thing was that she mentioned the difficulty of memorizing one’s social security number. I fired off an email to the effect of, “Oh, my social security number is easy to memorize, all three sections are divisible by {undisclosed prime number}.”

Later I learned that the poor woman had been bombarded (mostly from the software engineers and testers) with messages very similar to mine, all making jokes about the mathematical properties of our social security numbers. “I’m never going to make any comment about numbers to any of you again!”

There is a reason I majored in mathematics at university, and why my job has always involved troubleshooting computational systems.

On the other hand, it is important to remember one birthday dinner back in the mid-nineties. My late husband Ray’s birthday is two days after mine, and we would usually go out to dinner with his mom, his sister, his brothers, and their families on either the Saturday before our birthdays or the Saturday after to celebrate.

We were all sitting around the table at some restaurant having multiple conversations, and one of the sisters-in-law asked me how old I was, now. I said, rather firmly, “Thirty-six!”

Ray turned to me, a look of amusement on his face. He shook his head. “No, honey, you’re thirty-five.”

“I think I know how old I am,” I said.

We had a back and forth for a while, and eventually I grabbed a napkin, wrote down the current year, then wrote the year I was born under it, and did the subtraction. I was planning to wave it in his face and say, “See! Thirty-six.”

Except it wasn’t. It was 35.

I must have stared at the napkin for a full minute, dumbfounded. At some point between my previous birthday and that day, I had apparently started thinking I was 35, when in fact I was still 34. I don’t know why. I was just trying to skip a year, or something.

I finally said, “Damn. I guess I am only 35.”

And everyone burst out laughing because the math guy had forgotten how old he was.

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