Adult Arithmetic

Getting a flu shot, as every schoolboy by now knows, is a smart idea. With regularity, the bug comes around annually and (briefly) makes life miserable for many. Maybe most.

Despite the advice of such experts as Jenny McCarthy, whose expertise seemed focused on her eagerness to model for anatomy classes as published in a monthly magazine, immunization does, in fact, work.

This year, for the first time in memory, senior-level flu shots were available. “Senior” referred to the patient as well as the dosage. It is, one supposes, like the difference between “regular” and “high test” gasoline.

Before a flu shot is administered, typically, one must complete a form that a clerk reviews with the patient. The clerk asks such penetrating questions as “Your name is…” and “You live at…” It’s a fill-in-the-blank kind of test. Most seem to pass.

There is also one discriminatory item on the form, a question for “Females only”. At least that’s how it appears on the form I completed. Bold and italicized. A trick question for some, I assume, I did pass that test by not answering the item.

Assuming one gets one’s name and address correct, and that is confirmed by the interview with the clerk, that is not the only test being administered.

Strange as it may seem, there’s also an arithmetic quiz built in to a form. It’s subtle. Almost unobtrusive.

What does arithmetic have to do with immunization? Not being especially good at this, some may respond to their math anxiety by failing certain questions. Such as their name. Or address.

At the top of the form the patient is asked to write in their name. And there’s none of that tricky last-name-first business to trip up the unwary or the inattentive.

Next, write your date of birth. It’s not a hard question. Think back to the last big party held in your honor. Now when was that? Oh, right, got it!

It’s the third question that’s the test.

Write in your age.

Wait a minute. You just asked for my date of birth. Now you want my age. What? Are you checking to see if I’m shaving off a year or two?

Or just how tuned-up my arithmetic is?

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