THE NUMBERS GAME
20 January 2003
I didn't get too concerned when the office bank statement arrived in the middle of the
week last week. Last month I finally made peace with the bank book. I ran a tape on every
single page in the checkbook. I felt like Santa Claus--making a list and checking it
twice...three times...four times. I knew all those figures were right, for the first time
in over a year. It was a very good feeling when I came to the balance line and discovered
that I was "only" $40 from the bank's total.
Now, I know there are accountants out there who will spend days searching for a penny, but
having gone through months where I was so far from the bank's balance that it wasn't
funny, being only $40 off was pretty damn good for me--and Dr. G feels that anything under $100 is
"close enough" and not worth spending the time worring about.
So I was pretty smug when the statement arrived this week, knowing that balancing it would
be a breeze.
I couldn't put it off till next week because the checkbook has to go to the accountant
tomorrow, to get ready for taxes. But no problem. Dr. G would not be in on Friday and I
would set that day aside to do the checkbook.
Friday came around and I had just received my Palm Pilot and I wanted to get that leather
carrying case that I had such trouble with. I got that. Then I went for the groceries that
I had listed in my Palm Vx. Then I had to take the groceries home so that the frozen stuff
could be put away. Then I baked the dessert I was taking to Dave, the guy who just got
home from open heart surgery. Then I got a package ready to take to the post office. Then
I went to the post office (which was so busy I gave up), and by then it was time for me to start cooking dinner for Dave and his wife.
I wasn't really worried about not getting the checkbook balanced because I knew that there
was nothing on the docket for the weekend except transcription and I figured I could
balance both the checkbook and the transcription over the weekend.
Saturday morning I got involved in the usual mindless computer stuff (and doing some
transcription) and finally got to the office around noon. Confidently, I cleared my desk,
took out the check book, the calculator and the bank statement. I went through and checked
off all the checks that had been written, ran off my tape, double checked the numbers,
wrote it all down with a flourish and then checked the numbers I got from the bank
statement against the number in the checkbook.
I checked it.
I checked it twice.
I checked it three times.
There was no. damn. way. I was ten thousand dollars off!!!!
I checked all the numbers again. Everywhere. I managed to find three deposits I'd
forgotten to enter. Now things were looking up. I was only $6,000 off.
The only good think about this was that it was $6,000 in our favor. That's definitely
better than $6,000 in the bank's favor, but I'd run out of places to check. There was only
one logical thing to do: give up for the day.
I figured that maybe with some time away from it, my head would clear and I could figure
out what I'd done wrong. And besides, it was time to get dressed for a retirement dinner
for a guy in Walt's office.
[ASIDE: This guy has worked for the company for 46 years. With his retirement, that means
that Walt, with 43 years of service, is now the longest employed employee in all the
This morning Walt went off to San Francisco to help the Lamplighters and then go to the
opera. I had the whole day to find my mistake. But first I had to finish a tape, and by
the time I did that, it was 11 a.m. again. The very last thing I wanted to do was ride my
bike to the office. It was in the high 30s, I think and it was so cozy in the house, even
if I did have to type. But I simply had to wrestle with the checkbook.
I bundled up in my sweatpants, my heavy sox, a sweatshirt, my
balaclava, my glove liners, my biking gloves and my new red down-filled jacket. I
told Peggy I looked like a red Eskimo. I even gritted my teeth and biked over the
hill--this was my day to reduce all mountains to molehills--whether literal or virtual.
When the hill seemed surprisingly easy, I was encouraged that the checkbook would
likewise be a piece o'cake.
There were two other things I had to do at the office this weekend, which involved putting
the year's income into a spreadsheet and extrapolating information from that. So I started
with that. That killed an hour. Then, to reward myself for getting this long-postponed job
done, I went to Longs and bought myself 2 more pairs of $5/pair sweatpants and 2 $5
sweatshirts. I also picked up a couple of energy bars for lunch.
It was now 1 p.m. and there was nothing else I could do to stall. It was time to find
$6,000. First I discovered two checks that I wrote yesterday I had somehow written twice.
Well, that's $130 down, $5,870 to go.
I checked the numbers on the strips from the calculator. They all matched.
I double checked the strips from the checkbook. Everything matched.
Because I deleted the two duplicate checks, and because I don't do math in my head (for
obvious reasons), I ran that column again and added it to the previous column.
What? What's this?
I had added everything right on the bank statement.
I had added everything right on the check book.
What I hadn't done was copy the numbers to the statement accurately. Where
I had a "3" in the checkbook, I had written a "2" on the statement.
That made all the difference in the world. The checkbook didn't balance but it balanced
under $100 worth of error, and after the past two days, that's close enough for me.
Besides, the accountant is going to balance the whole thing tomorrow anyway, so what the
Sometimes, I can be incredibly stupid.
I rode home over the hill again. This is the long way--the
more difficult way for me. The road fairly flew by under the wheels of my bike.
I'm flying on my own!
Dave, his teacher Dick Brunelle, and his best
friend Jeff Storey at the
Thanks to everyone who responded to yesterday's entry, giving advice
and comments on cold weather. The column prompted some memories from my friend Diane that
were so entertaining, I decided to publish them as a guest column.
Two Years Ago
I Meet My "Fan"
My friend Kathy had been telling me for a long time that a friend and co-worker of
hers was "my biggest fan" and that she was always regaling Kathy (who is not a
regular reader) with things from my journal.
A fan. Whoda thunk?
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