Dick Wolfsie: When numbers are conundrums


I’d like to share a few numbers with you:




These are some of the tracking numbers for the Christmas gifts I bought online over the past few months. I copied and pasted the figures into the UPS or FedEx websites to be sure they were on the way.

By the way, those are not the exact numbers. I substituted bogus numerals above because I don’t want anyone tracking my purchases. One time when I pretended to put my real phone number in my column, readers called it and then emailed me saying they got some poor lady in Metamora, who I later heard had a breakdown because her phone kept ringing in the middle of the night. And whose fault is that?

I did a Google search to learn the term for a large string of integers, and I’ve discovered a whole new lexicon. We have quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, decillion, tredecillion, novemdecillion and vigintillion. I’m going to play it safe and just call them all gazillions. Whatever you call them, it just doesn’t make sense that tracking a package should require so many digits.

Here’s another code: 783930404X9056.

That’s the confirmation number for my online pharmacy cholesterol medicine. I knew there were a lot of people out there with lipid problems, but my mistake was just counting people on this planet. I also don’t know what that X means, but it scares the heck out of me.

There is a similar conundrum (not a word I use lightly) in other areas. My house number is 9623. No matter how many times I count the homes in my cul de sac, I usually get six. Even after three cans of Heineken Light, the most I see is eight.

My friend Jerry works at a small company here in Indianapolis. When I call his office, I get a prompt that says: For Tom, press 3056, for Jerry press 3157, for Adrian press 3021. I’ve been to his place of business. Where are the 3,000-plus phones? Imagine if we all got this pretentious!

“Mary Ellen, it’s your brother calling from Oregon.”

“Which line, Dick?”

“Extension 5696.”

“Huh? We only have two phone lines in this house.”

“I know. I know. I just hope your brother heard me say that. How cool does that sound?”

Then there’s my computer. The model number is 367892JY. I called the company and asked how many different models they have. “About 30 or 40 over the past 24 years,” they told me, so I posed the obvious question. “Do you have a model number 6 or 12 or 27?”

“No, Sir. I think those missing numbers represent defective prototypes that didn’t pass all the necessary tests.”

This makes me really happy I never flew to New York on a 742.

The original Social Security card, printed back in 1936 with the number 001-01-0001, was issued to a man named Morris Ackerman. When he retired, his first Social Security check was for 17 cents. He was just beside himself with how generous the government was. They sure had his number.

Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes columns for the Daily Reporter. Send comments to [email protected].