Gym class can either be my favorite class or my least favorite class. It all depends on the clipboard. Coach Brad is exactly the person you have in your mind when you think of a stereotypical high school gym teacher, and he takes his class about as seriously as you'd expect him to. He spends the entire period walking around taking notes on his clipboard and grades each student on his or her "effort." I hate his clipboard.
The real purpose of gym, however, is to see how active you can be without breaking a sweat. No one likes to sweat in school, except for a few of the over-zealous athletes, but Coach grades us based on participation points, so you can't just sit around and do nothing the whole time. I've found that four square is a great mix of activity and passivity. It's also in the corner by the bleachers, so you can get away with spending most of your time sitting down.
Joe is in this class with me and he feels the same way about sweating in school that I do, so we both do our best to do as little as possible while still getting participation points. There are some days where Coach forgets his clipboard, which basically means no one is receiving a grade for the day and we're free to do as much or as little as possible. These days are when gym is my favorite class. For us, no clipboard means no sweating and today was a no clipboard day. Joe and I were sitting in the corner of the bleachers near where four square was being played when I decided to tell him about my dilemma.
"So you have to choose between two girls?" he asked after I finished telling him everything.
"Well, it's easy. You just have to run them through the formula."
"The what?" At first, I thought he was definitely messing with me, but when he pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket, I realized he was serious.
"Hey Sally," he said turning to the girl sitting behind us, "do you have a pencil I can borrow?"
Sally was Joe's girlfriend. I don't understand their relationship at all because I've never seen two people who are more different from each other. Sally is quiet and studious, and Joe is...well...not. Coach Brad gives her more leniency than the rest of us because she's in so many Honors classes, so she is allowed to sit in the bleachers unabashedly. Most days, she doesn't even dress out.
"No," she responded. "Last time I gave you a pencil you never gave it back."
"I hate it when you call me babe." She had yet to look up from the book she was reading.
"Babe, please. Please...babe. Help me out babe. Babe, just this once." I'm not sure whether Sally found Joe annoying or endearing, but either way she handed him a pencil from her pocket without looking up and we bent over the scrap of paper. On it, Joe wrote:
3H - 2C + 1C = _____
"It's called the HCC formula," Joe explained, "or the Hot-Crazy-Compatible Formula, and it rates a person's attractiveness. It's pretty easy. You just have to give values to the three different letters for Eve and Sarah and whichever one scores higher is the one you choose. A perfect score is a 32, but I've never seen someone score higher than a 30," He added as he handed me the pencil.
"So are the two C variables supposed to represent different things?" I asked. "You really should clarify or at least simplify and..."
"I'm not a mathematician man. Just give them each the value you think best represents them. Do Eve first. Hotness on a scale of 1-10?"
I didn't have to think long. "9," I said.
"Nice," Joe replied. "Fill it in on the paper. Now, how crazy is she on a scale of 4-10?"
"What happened to 1-3?" I asked, as I wrote a 9 for the letter H.
Joe looked over his shoulder to make sure Sally wasn't listening. "No girl is less than a 4 crazy, dude." I thought about it for a second and decided that sounded fair.
"I don't know if I know her well enough to know how crazy she is," I said hesitantly.
"Then you have to go based on her reputation. Also, she's blonde so that's +1 for crazy."
"I didn't make the rules, man. I'm just telling you how it is. Blondes trend one point higher on the crazy scale."
I was under the distinct impression that Joe did make the rules, so this sounded strange to me, but I didn't have any way of proving otherwise. After thinking for a moment, I decided I couldn't think of any reason that Eve would be crazy, so I wrote down 5, which was the lowest a blonde could conceivably score.
Joe nodded his head in approval and said, "Alright, last part. Compatibility on a scale of 1-10. How well do you get along with her?"
Again, I felt like I didn't have enough data to give an accurate representation. We got along fine, not exceptionally well, but good enough to be semi-comfortable around each other. I decided 7 was both accurate yet arbitrary, so I wrote it down. The formula read:
EVE: 3(9) - 2(5) + (7) = 24
"That's a pretty good score," said Joe. I could tell he was comparing it to other scores he had calculated using this formula. "Really good for a freshman."
"Now Sarah?" I asked.
"Yeah. Same thing."
It was easier to come up with numbers for Sarah because I had known her for longer. Hotness was the only one where I hesitated, but only because it felt weird to think of her that way. She was certainly very pretty, but I had never associated hotness with Sarah and it felt unnatural, so I gave her a 7. Crazy was a 4 because she was the most sane girl I knew and compatibility was a 9, but only because I didn't feel comfortable giving anyone a 10 for anything. Her formula looked like this:
SARAH: 3(7) - 2(4) + (9) = 22
"The numbers don't lie," said Joe. "Eve it is."
I looked down at the two different formulas and Eve was clearly the winner, but it still didn't feel quite right. Something in my gut felt off, but before I could figure out what it was I heard Sally's voice from right behind me.
"Oh not the formula again," she said. "Joe, are you serious? This is barbaric."
"You're only saying that because you didn't get a perfect score," he retorted.
"No, I'm saying that because it's wrong," she said.
"Babe, the formula has never failed and you know it."
"Wait, you know about the formula?" I asked. This seemed to me like something Joe would want to keep away from his girlfriend, but they had clearly discussed it before.
"Yes," she said, "it's stupid."
"It's not stupid," Joe replied, seeming offended. "She just thinks the variables should be weighted differently."
"No, I think you shouldn't be using a stupid formula at all," said Sally.
"Look, we'll try it your way," Joe said. He grabbed the paper, wrote down a new formula, and handed it back to me. "The difference is that she thinks compatibility should be weighted more heavily than hotness. Some might disagree, but here it is." This new formula was only a slight variation of the first.
1H - 2C + 3C = _____
"Use the same numbers and see what you get this time," Joe instructed. I did as I was told and the two formulas came out like this:
EVE: 9 - 2(5) + 3(7) = 20
SARAH: 7 - 2(4) + 3(9) = 26
"See," Joe exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air, "now the numbers are completely skewed." From his perspective, I could see why he thought the numbers were skewed, but for some reason I felt relieved to see the new formula. I don't know why, but something about it felt better. Still, with each formula telling me two different things, I wasn't any closer to making a decision. Joe had implied that the formula would bring complete clarity to my situation, but the math seemed just as confused as me.
"Compatibility is more important than hotness," interrupted Sally. "Giving hotness the highest weight is shallow and you know it, Joe."
"I'm more compatible with hot people. I don't know what else to say," Joe replied holding his hands up innocently.
Sally rolled her eyes and looked at me. "This formula won't give you an answer," she said. "You can't calculate a feeling or put numbers to romance." Joe now rolled his eyes. "If you thought you'd find the answer to your problem in a formula, then you're dumb and you don't deserve either of these girls." I felt like I was in the middle of a lecture from an adult, but I also could tell she was right. Something felt off and I knew it was the formula.
"C'mon Tim, you already know the answer," continued Sally. "You knew before you wrote down any numbers. Ignore the formula. Follow what you feel."
At these words, the bell rang and we began to clean up the gym equipment. Usually, I'm eager to get to my last period, but today I was dragging my feet in a vain attempt to delay my decision. There was nothing I could do though. Optional period was next and it was time to choose.