All About the Benjamin – How Math Saves Lives

Have you ever found money? What did you do with it? A couple of math teachers went to eat sushi and ended up saving a life! This is the story of how a 67% tip on a sushi bill saved a teenager’s life.

Okay, that’s a bit of a hyperbole. But roll with me for a bit.

The Back Story

This summer I started teaching at a small school for kids with neurological differences 2.5 miles from my house. This was the perfect distance to start run commuting – running to work to get back into my old pre-kid running shape.

During inservice for the fall, I attended a two day class on Reasoning Mind’s RMCity with a new colleague, Stephanie.

Turns out Stephanie is pretty cool and she’s a runner. A twice marathoner, in fact, with a bundle of halfs and other shorter distances under her belt.

Even better, she lives 3.5 miles from school – in a southerly direction like me.

So we started run commuting together.

The Discovery

On our trip home we often pass lots of trash. Sometimes we grab a few pieces to help clean the world. Sometimes we let it go.

As we walked by a bit of trash today, letting it go, I noticed it looked rather money-like on the inside. But the outside looked fake, so I kept walking.

My brain kept seeing it, even though we had passed. And I noticed the fake part read “100.”

Have you ever found money? What did you do with it? A couple of math teachers went to eat sushi and ended up saving a life! Now in the past decade or so, the US has decided that Euro-looking money is cool, so they’ve started making our money less green. There’s all kinds of shiny things and pretty colors all over the bills.

In other words, our money looks fake.

My brain registered this. So I turned around.

Sure enough, there in the grass was a fresh new $100 bill.

The Plan

“Holy Crap,” Stephanie spat, “is that real?”

“I dunno,” I said, “kinda looks like it.”

“That’s a real $100 bill!”

“I guess so.” I was kinda stunned.

“We’re totally going to dinner.”

“Let’s do sushi!” I said thinking how cool that would be since John Hunter and I were on our own tonight.

There was part of me that thought that we should give it to charity or something. But it’d been so long since I had sushi, I was running with the selfish angle.

The Dinner

Have you ever found money? What did you do with it? A couple of math teachers went to eat sushi and ended up saving a life!We settled on Nori Sushi Bistro because it had easy parking and was close.

We told our waiter the story of finding the $100 bill and he took a picture of us with it.

We split a sake and began ordering sushi.

The Turmoil

Toward the end of our meal there was a ruckus a few tables back. Something wasn’t quite right.

We heard a man yelling a name very loudly. Over and over.

Stephanie and I had just taken CPR classes a few days earlier. She and I stood to make sure our assistance wasn’t needed. John Hunter, nestled in my right arm, clung peacefully to my shirt, also assessing the situation.

Well, our assistance was needed. Stephanie, free of baby holding, moved in and started CPR. I stood at a distance, watching another lady phone for help and witnessing my new colleague save a life.

The Result

After three cycles of CPR, the girl showed signs of life. It was another 15 minutes until the ambulance arrived and took her off in a gurney. She was moving and talking a bit at that point, worried that her dad wouldn’t be able to stay with her.

I gave Stephanie a big hug and she took John Hunter to snuggle on.

Ramped up on adrenaline, we ate the last pieces of sushi out of obligation.

The Math

We asked for the bill and it came back $60.02. My amped up brain wasn’t ready to calculate a 20% tip. Or any arithmetic for that matter.

And we were eating on found money, anyhow.

I said, “How about I just leave the whole 100?”

“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” Stephanie said.

So I sent the $100 bill off with the hostess and a “tell him to keep it.”

We spent 60% on sushi, 40% on tip.

That’s 67% gratuity. (That size of tip deserves the fancy word.)

And for all that, we were able to bond together, save a life and make a waiter’s otherwise pretty crazy night, pretty darn good.

If that’s not good math, I don’t know what is.


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