Repeat after me: inanimate objects cannot plot against humanity. Again. Louder! INANIMATE OBJECTS CANNOT PLOT AGAINST HUMANITY! Yes, it’s sometimes true that people can’t get them to work the way they’re supposed to; but if you’re one to cuss-out an inanimate object and throw it against a wall, YOU’RE the one with the problem… most likely IQ related.
Coffee tables can’t plot to fracture your shinbone in the dark of night. Hammers have yet to figure out how to smash your fingers while driving a nail. Light bulbs are not capable of realizing that you’re out of them before they blow. And, road-maps are NOT at fault because YOU cannot refold them properly.
Yes, ROAD-MAPS! In the year 2012, it’s rare to see people using road-maps; but NOT all of us have access to digital location technology such as GPS devices, Smartphone’s, and iPads. Directions provided by computer programs such as MapQuest are useless if you don’t have a home computer.
I’m not knocking people who still use open-panel road-maps. I’m not even knocking people who simply opt out of the 24-by-7 world of digitized, instantaneous information technology. Even though I’m an old fart (72 as the calendar shot into the year 2012), I love it! Some others, in my age group or older, hate it; and I understand why.
However, actions such as kicking a tire because it’s flat; smashing a cell phone because it’s dropping too many calls; throwing a ballpoint pen across a room because it’s out of ink, etc, all personify stupidity.
So does crumbling up a road-map, throwing it on the ground, climbing back into your car and tearing out into oncoming traffic—almost causing an accident—all because you can’t refold it properly. In fact, it’s BEYOND stupid!
And, such behavior is not confined to any specific age group, either. I witnessed a man (late 40s at most) do this in a local parking lot last Thursday afternoon, nearly causing a multiple car pile-up on a major highway as he ripped out into traffic.
I picked it up to put it into a trash container. It was one of those large, 8 by 5 folding maps. This means, simply, that it had eight panels in one direction and five panels in another direction.
In the man’s defense—although this does not excuse his behavior—these maps are sheer terrors to refold properly. Mr. Murphy, of Murphy’s Law fame, summarized the difficulty when he decreed, “Open-panel maps cannot be refolded without using scissors.”
Road maps are classic examples of open-panel maps. They’re difficult to refold, just as some times those large paper grocery bags can be difficult to open up. However, since they’re all inanimate objects, they can’t plot against humanity.
Consider this. The map I described above opened to eight panels in one direction and five panels in another direction. The total number of ways that we can refold such a map is seemingly absurd, but mathematically certain.
The formula is n! times 2n. The translation for this is n FACTORIAL multiplied by 2 raised to the nth power. The factorial of any number is that number sequentially multiplied backwards to 1. The factorial of three (3!) is 3 x 2 x 1 = 6. To calculate 2 raised to the 3rd power (23), multiply 2 by itself 3 times (2 x 2 x 2) = 8. Therefore, 3! times 23 = 48.
Apply this arithmetic to our eight by five-panel map. The formula (n! x 2n) becomes (8! x 28). Now 8! is 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 or 40,320 and 28 is 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 or 256. The formula (8! x 28) = 10,321,920 different possible refolds of the original map.
Since there is only ONE “right” way to fold it back the way it was, the percentage chance of getting it “right” in one try equals 0.000009688%… pret-TEE slim to say the least.
Every new map comes pre-folded. As our calculations point out, there is no shame in failing to refold it precisely that way. Some people are able to do it, but it has more to with cerebral hemispheric dominance than dumb luck.
Humans in general hate to look foolish even if no one else notices it or even cares about it. So, since virtually all of us have experienced it, failure itself is not the culprit.
The thing that makes us look stupid is trouncing inanimate objects as though they’ve plotted against us. It makes others assume we possess 2-digit IQs.
We need to remember this the next time our computer monitors flash, “hit any key to continue,” and we’re tempted to use a sledgehammer!
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.