… on mathematical shame


Do you remember the dock tree?

Okay, so if you don’t want to read all about it, just:

A. Look at the photo above, which is an official ‘dock tree’ (it happens to be mine).

B. Know that the raising of such a tree, like other more complex ‘raisings’ (such as barn raisings), is fraught with danger.

The photo above was taken at high tide. At low tide – when this dock tree was put in place – the water is nine or ten feet below the level it is at here. Hence, it only makes sense that there is considerably more high drama when raising a dock tree, vs. a measly barn, as dock tree raising is not a group effort, but is often accomplished by one person. Mostly when that sole individual is an imbecile.

And, in Maine, this endeavor also has the propensity to be mocked by passing lobstermen.

Okay, so now you know all you need to know about dock tree raising.

But after the dock tree raising, and after all the joy and wonder and magic that the dock tree contributes to the holiday season between, say, December 1st-ish and January 1st-ish… well.

Most people would then remove said dock tree from, you know, the dock.

April 11th.

On April 11th, the Nearly Perfect Husband and I untied the dock tree, unwound the dandy C9 bulbs from weary branches, and carried her to the back of the gardens.

So now I have to face a fact.

This is our first year here as full-time residents.

This was the first year we ever had a dock tree at Christmastime.

This means that, the mean – or average (yep, googled it to be sure) – number of days beyond Christmas that the Dingle dock tree is taken down is 107.

And I googled other math ‘m’ words too.

The current median is also 107 days.

And also the mode is 107 days.

I know! I’m right with you. I never thought I’d ever have to use the mean thing or the mode thing again – except to help my own kids with their math homework – but there you go!

I am feeling the triple pressure big time.

The thing was, every time I thought of hauling it up, it would snow. Which, to me, was a sign that Mother Nature liked her little dock tree right where it was.

Then there was the fact that I can’t actually see the dock from the house, so I wasn’t constantly feeling guilty that I had this poor dock tree tied up and forced to perform for the masses long past the time specified in her employment contract.

Also, she actually kept all her needles and stayed green so she was not cold or suffering in the elements (my attorney advised me to make this point).

But 107 days?

I just can’t explain it.

This is like having a terrible freshman year (so many distractions!) and my GPA is disappointing to say the least and now I have to dig my way out of it and it’s going to take me years.

Like, my goal is to have my Christmas stuff down the week after New Year’s Day. So… let’s give me until January 8th. So my goal GPA is 14… as in 14 days after Christmas, my dock tree is down.

My current mean/average is 107.

So if, next year, I accomplish my goal of 14 days… then my average time will be (107+14)/2, which is 60.5. Which is awesome but then… well watch:

Year 3: Goal reached at 14, so (107+14+14)/3 = 45

Year 4: Goal reached at 14, so (107+14+14+14)/4 = 37.25

Year 5: Goal reached at 14, so (107+14+14+14+14)/5 = 32.6

Year 6: Goal reached at 14, so (107+14+14+14+14+14)/6 = 29.5

Year 7: 27.2

Gawd this would have been so much faster if I had ever been good at word problems…

Year 8: 25.6

Year 9: 24.3

Oh, fluck it.

It will take me a lot… many… a substantial number of years before I ever have an acceptable average number of days that it takes me to take down the Dingle dock tree post-Christmas.

That was a very heavy burden to bear until I realized that it would only take me three years to have my median and mode down to 14.

I googled it, and then did all my work on a scrap sheet of math paper just to be sure.

Screw the mean.

Who wants to be average anyway?

Okay, on many days ‘average’ is a personal aspiration, but just go with me here.

I’m a grown up now (don’t analyze my behavior too closely). I get to choose my metrics for success.

A good median and acceptable mode work for me.

In the ‘mean’time (mathematical pun), apologies to our neighbors, and anyone else who had to watch my poor dock tree languish so late into the spring. A special nod to Mr. Hennessy who just took over ramp and float duty, attaching both to our dock after a long winter. Thank you, sir, for not firing us as customers on the spot. Hope you got a good laugh (or at least satisfying eye-roll).

We’ll be better next year.


Thanks for readin’.

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