Dear Mrs. Vera,
How come Bank of America pays one hundredth of one percent interest when their profits are up 63 percent?
Henry F. “Mister” Potter,
Bedford Falls, NY
Dear Henny HalfPenny Pincher, sorry, I meant Baron Von Bankenstein,
What a wonderful question! I’m going to put on my wizardish pointy math cap this week, instead of my usual scoldy turban and politeness pantyhose, and pretend that nerds have manners. That way I can dispense some highly valuable Math Advice to anyone out there foolish enough to pay it any heed. You can play this game with Monopoly™ Money if you do not have any actual money left, but I must remind anyone relying on cash to survive that real bills are much more nutritious and delicious, because of all the bacteria, DNA and miscellaneous smudges flavoring them with added value.
You can come at a challenging math problem in any number of ways. You can pelt it with apples and oranges until, for all practical purposes, both sides of the equation look and smell the same and there are too many fruit flies to count, a method Gauss was using, along with banana peels, when he had his first deep insights into the nature of infinity, such as how many of those fruit flies can be contained within a finite space or time. For example: How many days until next Tuesday, the day of the week Austrian garbage gets picked up? Or the number of cat food cans thrown out since Schrodinger’s cats stopped working for a living? A lot, in either case, I bet.
You can also solve ancient riddles and paradoxical formulae such as Sudokumania™, volume 11 while on the train by nodding sagely with an unlit corncob pipe or bubble-wand in your mouth and cross-eyed coke bottle glasses and drawn-on freckles while sporting Alfalfa cowlick-hair, and filling random numbers or letters into each tic-tac-toe until there are no blanks left, just as fast as you can, with one eye closed, to see who knows more numbers. Hardcore enthusiasts tote along collapsible wheelchairs for their impromptu Winner’s Victory Laps, famous for delaying trains on the Metro North Commuter line that carries brainiacs to and from their jobs as that thing on a Banker’s desk with the five metal balls on a porch swing that really successful titans of industry can crush flies with when angered — unless Glass-Steagall destroys them first, of course.
The easiest way to avoid math is to buy a white coat and just hire any old anyone to wear it while claiming they believe the opposite of whatever it is that everyone else all agrees that the mass of data indicates is factual. Not only will association with these renegade “thinkers” make you seem way cool, dangerous and sexy to teenagers of the opposite sex, but it is much easier to get funding and design studies when the desired outcome reflects the client’s investment without regard to experimental results. This method is said to lead to much higher rates of nerd smoking and unwanted big-wig science pregnancies than the regular, science-on-top scientific method, or when a Lady Scientist uses her diagram to scare off the man scientist who senses her rows and columns and flashy beakers, but is too shy to show her his big styrofoam or cardboard “4”, or that “Pi” shape, when science is ovulating in the laboratory.
So, let’s solve this particular math problem about overburdened bankers. If you think it is easy to find enough staff to wheelbarrow around all that money that used to be owned by Americans all day and all night, let alone find a place for it, you might sob in anguish at the Plight Of The Bumbillionaire, if all you have left to your name is a really good string section from an award-winning Orchestra. If that does not sound like you, I hope the last thing you have to your name is a piece of chalk, with which we will do some calculations on the sidewalk if nobody eats the chalk or wastes too much of it drawing a Thanksgiving Turkey Feast. Drawing individual cranberries has ruined more than one struggling society that no one has ever heard of, aside from Cran-tlantis, which should have floated OK in a bog but still didn’t. Now The Pepperidge Farm™ resides on top of the corpse of that sunken continent, all for want of a pencil with an intact eraser. The Circle of Life.
Anyway, bear in mind the Law of Transitivity (not Intransigence — there are laws against that), which says that any amount taken from you is equal to any amount you will not be taking home with you, plus a little bit for Citibank™, thanks for stopping by. If we apply this to both sides of “why you don’t have any money but the people who took yours also have everyone else’s, too,” we get the following equation (Y -$ )+ (not Y – $) = (1$ + 2$ +3$ + 4$ + 5$ + BedBathandBeyond™ Coupon + …… $$ + $$$ + $$$$ + $$$$$ …… x 0), and when we attempt to simplify, it is hard to avoid the imagery of a banker tied to some train tracks. And if you go really fast on that hand-pumpy get-away carty thing, it sort-of looks like the mathematical symbol for “not equal to,” which in turn looks a bit like instructions on how to slice a sandwich in half diagonally, which definitely gives you more sandwich than doing it rectangular-wise, yuck. Obviously the only variable you can only solve for is the BB&Beyond™ coupon, because all the other terms automatically cancel each other out, since you no longer own any assets, which you would know If you had read the fine print of unregulated Capitalism. Unfortunately, that coupon also equals zero because the Bankers took it when you were reading the fine print, although you don’t actually need the coupon to get the discount. Try it, and you will see next time you go there to “buy” a bath in the water fountain, mens room or ladies room, or you and your exhausted family get warned to “keep on moving Beyond” the Bedding department, sternly, by security. You can grab a stack of flyers on the way out, and make a snuggly coupon blanket the whole family will feel 20% less frozen under.
You get an equivalent answer using market-driven derivatives based on rubbing the mutant blood of our divine BankerLords, who created us in a trade seven one-thousandths of a second ago, in the spit-upon image of their glory, all over coins and bills and rubies and silvery chariots. This imbues the math with super-protection from all governmental agencies tasked with kissing the rings of monocle-wearing, top-hatted, Integers smoking cigars.
Here’s the solution, and how we got there: We know, because it is a given (to them), that Bank of America’s profits are up 63%, and remember they weren’t exactly eating Ramen noodles and rice cakes last quarter, so show some respect, if you self-identify as a knave. Bank of America is forced to pay out only one hundreth of one percent, (which, if you had a dollar, in a hundred years would allow you to buy yourself a ticket to the allegedly spectacular Night Of A Little Bit Of A Thousand Stars™, although the inside word is that it will be mostly just Linda Lavin and David Schwimmer at that point), because every one thousand of the 63% of Americans who now have lost interest in the well-being of bankers have a combined net worth of one dollar, and 63% of 275,000,000 million Americans is 173,250,000 “people units”, and if every 1,000 of them is worth a dollar it means banks must pay almost $200,000 to someone every quarter, and it could be you! No purchase required, or even possible, at this point. Your chances of winning are not affected by the number of entries you submit, because you are not going to win. Not even a toaster. The only other way to look at it is to consider the 2 cent strain every 17.3 people drain off the profitable industry every three months to understand the precariousness of their situation, since they rely on all those virtually worthless individuals to generate enough wealth to wallow in, luxuriantly, between slops.
Mrs. Vera Newman is a San Francisco absurdist character, humorist, artist, writer, community organizer, clothes horse and co-founder, with Mister Tina, of The Verasphere. She has been answering the unasked questions she receives from the lonely, empty rooms of America’s heart-shaped circulatory pump room ever since it began beating. Nestled in the politically bent bowels of the Nation since she was a young girl babysitting the very same newborn Nation, her ability to self-reflect about anyone else’s embarrassing shortcomings, inept fumblings or lousy recipes has enabled her invisible rise as a modern-day Cassandra, whatever that means. Feel free to dispose of all your worries by leaving them on her doorstep!