Friday feeling 1.7.2016 01:30 pm

That Friday Feeling: Looking for the other one

Illustration: Nathi Ngubane

Illustration: Nathi Ngubane

This week’s winning story is about why one and one might equal 11.

This story is from back in the days when a lot of people never went to school, and when they did they literally did it when they were really old. Some were already in old age, like the people getting their matric at age 100.

A lot of the men (yes, men) who were at school with me were only getting around to school then because they had spent earlier years being kept out of school by their parents to help out with domestic chores or to do animal herding if their family was into stock farming. The girls would have had to help out with the cooking and cleaning.

Whatever the reason, there were a lot of older guys in class with the younger ones, and one of these older guys simply went by the nickname “The Man”, though his name was Matome.

The other pupils and even the teachers themselves feared The Man very much. He pretty much did as he pleased. Whatever he said, he was always right and no one argued with him.

One day the maths teacher asked the pupils to identify different numbers and write them on the board. Each pupil got a turn. The first one went, the teacher shouted out “Zero!” and the pupil drew a zero on the board. Then the next one went and scribbled the numeral two … and so on.

All seemed to be going well up to 10. The big guy, Matome, was next and had to write 11. The teacher screamed “Leven!”, Matome went up to the board and wrote a “1”.

Then he just stopped. Looking at the board, twisting and turning his head, the teacher said: “Go ahead, you’re on the right track, Matome.”

Matome just retorted: “Woman, you are disturbing me. I have now lost concentration and I am now confused and I am wondering if the other “1” is written on the right or to the left side of this one on the board.”

The teacher looked quite astounded by this, and Matome went back to considering the problem for a short while.

But then he put the piece of chalk back on the chalk rest and said: “No, you will have to find it out yourself, I can’t crack my head any more.”