Excitement by the Numbers

by Shevi Arnold

Illustration for column goes here.



I wanted to write an article about the most boring profession I could think of, so I called my friend Jerry the Accountant. Jerry used to have a different last name, but he changed it to save a few dollars each time he prints his business cards. Jerry informed me that I was wrong about accounting.

“Lots of people think it’s boring,” he said. “Actually, it’s probably one of the most exciting jobs anyone could have. It’s a lot like being a big game hunter.”


“Is it?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. Accounting is all about hunting for numbers. Numbers can be very illusive, and it takes a real expert to find a number that doesn’t want to be found. Of course, that’s what makes it so challenging.”

“So how do you find these numbers?”

“By following the trail.” I could hear Jerry talk to someone in the background, as he switched the handset on his telephone to his other shoulder. He waited for whoever it was to walk away before he continued. Apparently this was top-secret stuff. “What was I saying?”

“Something about a numbers’ trail,” I replied.

“That’s right. You have to be very careful when you follow a numbers' trail, because some numbers can be very dangerous.”

“Which numbers?”

“Sevens, for example. I wouldn’t want to be an inexperienced accountant running into a seven in the dead of night.”

“Why? What would a seven do?” I tried not to snicker, but something in my voice gave me away.
         "You think this is funny? Because I’m telling you right now, if you don’t take a seven seriously, it could bite your head off.”

I put on a straight face and cleared my throat. “Are there any other dangerous numbers?”


“Oh, so Seven Elevens are…”

“Best left to the experts, yes.”

“Uh-huh.” There was a long pause.

“Of course,” he continued, “dangerous numbers aren’t the most exciting part of this job.”


“Oh, no. The most exciting part is discovering a new number, a number no one else has ever seen before.”

“Is that even possible?”

 “Possible?” He laughed. “Why, mankind is only familiar with a fraction of the numbers that exist in the world.”


“Oh, yes. In fact… I recently discovered a number myself.”

“Wow, may I ask what number that was?”

“The number 678,396,305,321,191.87394. I wasn’t sure if it was a new number, so I looked it up. And what do you know…”

“What do you know…”

“Yup. Accountants’ Weekly sent a photographer around, and he took a picture of my new number. I got to name it, too.”

“What did you name it?”

“I called it a Bernice,” he said, “after my girlfriend.” 

“How romantic.”

“That’s what she thought. And I’ll let you in on a little secret. Someday when I ask her to marry me, I’m thinking of having her number engraved inside the ring.”


“Yes, wow. I guess you could say I got her number. You see, this job isn’t just exciting – accountants are some of the most romantic guys and gals you’ll ever meet.”

He gave me a moment to let his words sink in.

“Tell me, Jerry,” I said. “When you were a kid, who was your favorite character on Sesame Street?”

“Well, I was kind of divided,” he said. “I loved both the numbers ten and five.”

“How about the Count?”

“I liked him,” he confessed, “but he was kind of limited. He never thought big. Never went past the number one hundred.”

“I see.”    

“A love of numbers is a good start, but you have to want to reach for infinity. You may never get there even if you try, but if your dreams never take you past one hundred…” 

“Uh, huh… Tell me, Jerry, is this the only thing you ever wanted to do with your life?”

         “Oh, yeah.” I could hear the creak of his chair as he leaned back in it. “I knew it was a long shot, but I figured I’d eventually make it. I took a dual major in college, though, so I’d have something safe to fall back on.”

“Really?” I asked. “What else did you major in?”

“Theater,” he replied.

Again I paused.

“Okay,” I finally said. “So you have a girlfriend. Did your job help you with that or was it an obstacle?”

“Hey, I won’t lie to you. Lots of women are attracted to the glamour of the job, but it’s rare to find one prepared to live the life of an accountant’s spouse – to sit home night after night, wondering if the person you file your joint income tax form with will make it home alive.”

“So you’re lucky to have found each other.”

“Oh, yeah. Let me tell you, my woman is one in a Bernice.”