Monday, September 13, 2010

A lesson for all of you out there who think that you'll never use what you learn in math class

We're getting really excited about the new house.  Friday night we started knocking down two walls to open some of the space up.  The previous owner had closed off the top of the stairs and a hallway under the stairs to create discrete upstairs and downstairs apartments, and it made the space all chopped up and awkward, so priority number one was to take the walls down before the new hardwood floors get put down next week.  J showed me how to use the sawzall and loaned me his work gloves and put me to work.  I pulled off door framing with the hammer and cut out squares of sheet rock and generally had a ball.  We did bits and pieces throughout the weekend, and finished up tonight.

With just two seemingly small-ish, insignificant walls gone, the space just flows so much better.  When the floors are installed, it's going to look beautiful. 

There's still much work to be done, though.  Both bathrooms are atrocious, and while functional, need to be redone.  And there are a couple of other walls that we want to either bring down or cut into, but they are load-bearing walls so we need to figure out exactly how it can be done without jeopardizing the structural integrity of the house.  While I am certainly handy with power tools and a paintbrush, that's as far as it goes.

This is where J impresses the shit out of me.  Because not only does he know how to do all of this stuff, he knows how to figure out how to do it.  If that makes any sense.

The narrative of our marriage, at least as far as he tells it, is that I'm this crazy-smart person full of book learning who is all brainy for a living, and he's the big lunk who is on the tools because his brain isn't worth a damn.  I reject this because it's simply not true.  He may not have the formal education I have, and my abstract reasoning skills may be better, but he is very intelligent and has an amazing ability to figure out complex problems of engineering that leave me baffled.* 

And let's face it, I had every opportunity.  I came from a loving, supportive home in which education was valued, my abilities were praised, and it was always assumed I would go on to college and some post-graduate degree.  J went from one abusive home to another, was discouraged from pursuing a career as a vet by people who told him he was too stupid, and finally escaped to go out on his own when he was 16 or so.  He had the discipline and resourcefulness to finish school and put himself through trade school so that he would always have a solid skill that would allow him to support himself.

As my dad always says, in our family of Deep Thinkers, J's the only one that actually knows how to do anything useful.

We were sitting tonight watching football and folding laundry after the kids were asleep, talking about the house.  He had been over there earlier in the evening to do some laundry (our washing machine in the rental house is on the fritz) and we were marveling at how great it's going to look with the space opened up.

"And baby, I was doing some calculations, and we can really do something with that wall between the dining room and the back hallway.  We could put a pillar here or cut it out like you were saying you wanted to....."

As he's talking he's gesturing with his hands and I am trying to follow but I can't visualize what he's describing.

".....and so if you put a stud there to support the floor joists and wah wah wah wah waaaaaah...."

I'm like Charlie Brown listening to the teacher.

"I don't understand,"  I say.  "How do you know it's possible to do what you're describing?  How do you know the upstairs structure can handle it?" 

"I told you, I did calculations." 

"I know, but how did you know how to do them?"

"Well, I had a calculator."  He huffs at me like I'm daft.  "I'll have to take you over there and show you."

"Dude.  I'm not talking about doing the actual math.  I know how to do math, too.  I finished two years of calculus before I was out of high school, ferchrissakes.  But which calculation?  How do you know what formula to use?  The Pythagorean theorem?  The quadratic equation?"

I give him my stern, confused look, and he looks back at me, and we both crack up.

"Should I be using SOHCAHTOA?" I demand.  We're wheezing now, tears squeaking out of our eyes because we're laughing so hard.

Finally he sighs and hangs his head as he shakes it.  Kind of a "don't worry your pretty little head" gesture.

Which is fine.  Everyone likes to feel smart and competent, and he's entitled to it in this situation.
*Not that I couldn't figure it out given the time and a decent math textbook, but it's just not what I do on a regular basis.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:13 AM

    As a former Math teacher, who is still wiping the tears from her eyes from laughing so hard, I want to say that this is my favorite post! You two are hysterical! -Candice