Saturday, March 23, 2013
Mister Six Digits
Did I ever tell you about the toughest student to walk into the BYU Math Lab? We called him Mister Six Digits, because every time he talked, he never hesitated to remind you how much he made. He was also very difficult to tutor, because if he couldn't understand you, he would tell you to go away.
My boss gave me the challenge to reach the guy. I was one of the best tutors in the Math Lab at the time. That's because of this little talent I have. When I tutor, I not only look at the piece of paper, but I study the person -- their voice, their posture -- searching for any clues of understanding. If I see that my approach is working, I continue. If it's not working, I switch gears and try something else. It's kind of like playing a musical instrument.
So, when Mister Six Digits put up his orange flag, the other tutors let me have him. At first it was difficult to learn his style, but things started clicking. He was understanding the math, and he was happy. He learned my hours at the Math Lab and came at those times. He told me that he liked me. I was his favorite little nerd. He would put his arm around me and give me fisty-pumps.
As he became more acquainted with me, he opened up ... well, kind of. He would talk about being rich and successful in general, but would never go into details. We math tutors tried to figure out how he was getting those six digits. Was he an Amway dude who got in early? Was he a drug dealer? In Utah? The best theory we could come up with was that his father owned a successful company and put his son into a management level position at the top.
I resented the guy, but I had a job to do, and I would do whatever it took to make sure this guy got the highest grade possible in his class. However, it was difficult when he would say something like this ... "Do you know the difference between me and you? I'm going to college because I want to, since I make six digits. You're going to college because you have to."
There were so many responses I wanted to give, but bit my tongue since I had that job to do. I would go home at night and unload on my wife and tell her what I wanted to say. After all, how did he know that I wasn't making six digits? Well, I wasn't. Not even five digits. But one day I'd catch up to him ... when my music and writing career took off. It'll happen one day. Right?
I didn't have to go to college, either. If I wanted a real job, I could quit right then and there. Right? Well ... maybe he did have a point.
As the semester progressed, he got more and more on my nerves, but I was still the only person who could help him. Then one day, he unloaded a big frustration on me. With all the money he had in the world, he was unable to find a girlfriend. He was feeling lonely.
And then the next week, he learned that I was married and my wife was pregnant with our first child. He never knew before, because I don't usually wear my wedding ring. He asked to see a picture of my wife, so I showed him.
He said, "Wow! She's hot. How did a loser like you find such a hot babe?" He vented for another few minutes about how he still couldn't find himself a girlfriend and then he told me, "I'm sorry, but I can't concentrate. Go away."
The next day he put up a flag when he saw me, and we tried it for about a minute when he said, "I'm sorry, but you can't help me anymore. I can't stop thinking about how you got that hot wife. That's so messed up."
And that was it. I probably helped him one last time on a particularly difficult math problem, but on the most part, he pushed me away.
I never knew what happened to Mister Six Digits after that semester. Did he figure out his "girl problems"? Did he learn any lessons from our exchanges? Is he still making six digits? Did he ever become happily married?
I came out of that experience happier and satisfied. I didn't have six digits, but I received happiness through fulfilling the duties of my job, and going home each night to a hot wife.