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Sweating out a single degree of separation


As much as it pains me to do so, we are compelled today to begin with a bit of basic math.

No … you cannot run screaming for the exits. Your restraints are locked in place until the end of the ride.

Here we go: What is the difference between 76 and 77?


As simple as this calculation might seem, it appears we have been mistaken — for this is a trick question.

Now, we might want to believe … we might have been taught to believe … that 77 follows 76 in numerical order. Thus, 77 - 76 = 1 and, for the esoteric among us, 76 minus 77 would equal negative 1.

However (and I am not one to use “however” lightly), when we think back to all the crap we learned in high school, the fallibility of basic mathematical equations lead us to wonder that we can think at all.

Allow me to explain.

I do not live alone.

(No, I don’t mean the cat.)

Therefore, the difference between 76 and 77 is an expanse so great that even Evel Knievel — about to be sardined into Skycycle X-2 — would take a pre-launch look at the canyon before him, calculate the degree of difficulty, and say … “Naaaahh, I don’t think so.”

The degree of difficulty in my own daredevil derring-do is that which separates 76 … the temperature to initiate the air conditioning agreed-upon by the residents of our residence … and 77 which, clearly, is not 76.

Not by a long shot.

Allow me to explain.

I do not live alone.

You might not think that the problems of two little people (and a cat) manifested by a singular degree of separation would amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world — but, then, you would not find yourself awakened at 3 a.m. in the morning by the thump of windows being closed … and not for the usual reason you’d be awakened at such an hour.

Still, there we were — the cat and I — groggily lifting our noggins as our housemate dutifully went from room to room closing off our access to the outside world and activating the air conditioner’s ramastatathingamabob so that it would reset the in-house temperature to … you guess it … 76.

Why? Because it was too hot.

How hot was it, Johnny?


Heat, of course, is a state of mind and I’ve learned over the past 42 years that it’s a far, far better thing than I’ve ever done before if I don’t question hers.

We had attempted to leave the windows open to give the cooling unit a breather, as it were, during this brutal early summer. Professional temperature-guessers had assured us that the overnight cool-down would allow for the opening of windows … so, truly, what could go wrong?

Those of you who have dwelled with someone for 42 years (or, frankly, 42 minutes) do not have to have this explained to you.

I was halfway to being a witty, charming husband by letting “Don’t sweat the small stuff” hang in the apparently stifling 77-degree air when the cat shot me a look that carried a combined message of “I wouldn’t do that” and “How stupid are you?” …

… don’t answer that.

Our personal reactions to experiencing temperature are not universal. I’d go full-Einstein here and bring up hot stoves, Marilyn Monroe and relativity … but he’s been taking a dirt nap since 1955, so what does he know of the lament that wells deep from my soulmate’s soul at 3 a.m. in the morning upon confirming her suspicions over leaving the windows open?

Einstein is said to have originated the charming witticism about the partners in a marriage divvying up who gets the final word on big decisions (his baliwick) and little decisions (Mrs. Einstein’s domain).

“However,” said Einstein, who clearly also wasn’t one to use “however” lightly, “the strange thing is that in 50 years, there hasn’t been one big decision.”

But here’s the thing: Einstein was married twice, once for 16 years and the other for 17 … so he a) never actually said it, or b) his combined years of wedding bliss just felt to him more like 50 … relatively speaking.

I’m no Alfred Einstein, but even I know that E=mc2 was of little use in the midst of a battle over the difference between 76 and 77. This would have to be settled in true democratic fashion by a vote … which I lost 2-to-1 (since she holds the cat’s proxy).

The house would remain cooled at a chilly 76 degrees at bedtime … with windows to be opened by whomever is compelled to be awakened at 3 a.m. in the morning by forces beyond their control.

Peace and harmony once again swept across the land … until I forget to put the toilet seat down.


Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin’s ramastatathingamabob at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com continually flashes 12:00.