I am a mathematician. I went to Polytechnic University after I graduated from high school. By the end of my freshman year, I had taken every undergraduate mathematic course the university offered and earned an “A” in each one. I do not know if I was born that way or was taught to see life that way. Regardless, that is how I think.
I grew up less than five miles from Belmont Raceway. Each summer my grandfather would take me to Saratoga to play the ponies. You legally had to be eighteen, but back then, nobody really cared.
Each time I went to the raceway, I was given a twenty dollar bill. Nine races, minimum bet of two dollars a race. I understood probabilities without ever being told. I was six when I learned to read the racing form. I would wander around the park and stop and listen to the men talking about their favorite horses and discuss distances, track conditions, records and jockeys. A couple of minutes before each race I would go to the teller and place my bet.
I never lost all twenty dollars and frequently did well. All day, we automatically kept track of how we were doing. After the ninth race, I would settle up. If I hadn’t made money, I gave what ever I had left of the twenty I started with. I did not have to do that often. If I had made money, I gave the twenty my father or grandfather fronted my back to them and kept my winnings.
I have an aunt. She is a widow with a lot of money and can now live to please herself. She loves BINGO in a big way. When she is not traveling, she plays several times a week. She spends anywhere from five hundred to a thousand dollars a week. She takes BINGO seriously. Every couple of months she calls me to tell me about her great night. She wins thousands of dollars in one good night. I always congratulate her. I always ask her how much it cost her to win the money. She knows how much she spent that night and is thrilled with her “profit”. Numerous times I tried to explain that in order to know how much is profit, you have to keep track of how much you have spent on BINGO since the last time you won. She would ask why she would want to do that. It has been a while since I stopped trying to explain.
All of this to share how my mind works. I am not a pessimist. I am a realist. I can not claim “victory” without simultaneously knowing in every cell of my body what that “victory” has cost. Some days, I envy my aunt.