I don’t expect enlightenment at the checkout counter when grocery shopping. Mild boredom laced with anxious dread? Yes. Short sharp kicks to the gut administered via a small rectangular overheating plastic drainpipe that sits in my wallet as it comes into contact with the flashing alarm bells on the till? Sadly, yes. Humdrum supermarket trauma? Always. Enlightenment? No. So the appearance of a fully formed mathematical genius behind the till gives me pause. I met one the other day. The bar code on my cucumber was failing to register, so the lady behind my till called out to the lady at till no 7,‘What’s the code, Squeeza?’ Squeeza promptly rattled off the nine digits that had been randomly assigned to the cucumber. What? Seems she knows the nine-digit codes for practically every single product in the Woolies Hyde Park store. She also appeared to be fully in possession of all her social skills. I say this because I instantly thought: ‘Rain Woman.’ But no, she was not an autistic savant, she was simply a savant. I instantly recommended a life in the casino for this lass. She was totally wasting her prodigious talent at the checkout counter. She should be hanging with Ben Affleck, counting cards and acquiring a life ban in Las Vegas.
But where is the enlightenment in all of this, you ask? Well I went home, unloaded the groceries, started making dinner and all the while I could not get Ms Arithmetic off my mind. She happened to me at about the point at which the abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls was hitting the global consciousness. Like everybody and their aunt on social media, it breaks my heart that a bunch of idiot men driven by lunacy and extremism could presume to cast such a hideous shadow of dread and doom over the lives of innocent girls. I felt the averted fate of one Malala multiply dangerously in an infinite cycle of destroyed lives – the brutal aftermath of mindless atavism. As I write this, those girls have been missing for two months. No amount of hashtagging appears to be making an impact.
But it suddenly struck me that the fate of Ms Arithmetic is equally harsh. Come now Aspasia, you might say, don’t exaggerate for dramatic effect, she has a job, she has food on the table, she has the admiration of her fellow workers. And I agree – there is self-respect and dignity to be found in every job well done, no matter where it is located in the economy. But think about Ms Arithmetic’s brain and its infinite capacity for memory and all the marvellous things she might have thought up with it had she just been given the chance. Ms Arithmetic was deprived of a vocation. My heart breaks for her stolen future. I don’t know at which point her education was curtailed – I was too ashamed to ask. Because I know that, just like her, so many South African girls drop out of the education system which fails them consistently year after depressing year, victims of our appalling apartheid legacy and the shambolic efforts to rectify it. The next time we hashtag #BringBackOurGirls we should look a little closer to home and make sure that we save our own girls too.
How spectacular is this necklace from Tinsel? The lovely Geraldine Fenn and Eric Loubser celebrated their new season with a campaign and asked me to participate. Thanks guys, what an honour.
Wow, I was so bowled over by the technical prowess and sheer beauty of photographer Steve Tanchel and Sharon Becker’s winter wonderland – step into the snow on page 69. We give you permission to dream (even if you have no interest in...