manhattan math

There’s a unique character to kids who live in Manhattan, something that distinguishes them, beyond the obvious images of necks craned upwards at impossibly tall buildings, or splay-limbed sprints down endless miles of sidewalk. I think it’s that they understand the intrinsically skewed mathematics of this city by using the same leaps of illogic that allow them to question things like why the alphabet has to be in alphabetical order. There’s a lot to be said for any lifestyle based on constant questions and the strain of constantly learning new things.

I saw a woman leading her young daughter into the bagel shop. The mother was mid 30s, I think, and the girl must’ve been 6 years old, maybe 7. She trailed behind her mother and came to a stop in front of a glass case of bagels that stretched to nearly twice her height.

I hadn’t listened to their conversation at first, but her bright tone and measured words made it clear that she was a smart young girl. Being a bachelor with few friends who are parents, I always forget that there can be children who are calm. But this woman’s daughter didn’t seem like the sort who’d need any more distraction than worrying a loose tooth in order to keep her occupied. I’d imagine that this young girl is the sort that her elders would refer to as a "little lady".

She stood patiently as her mother ordered a cup of coffee, waiting until the man behind the counter in the paper hat prompted her for the rest of her order by pointing the dull end of his bread knife.

"I’ll get a dozen bagels… give me 7 plain and 7 everything."

While my mind wandered to what kind of office had such a binary distribution of bagel tastes, the little girl turned away from the glass case to ask her mother a few questions.

"A dozen is twelve, right?"


"And a baker’s dozen is thirteen?"


"Seven and seven is fourteen."


The little girl then turned back to face the wall of bagels in front of her. "Okay," she said.