COUNTING AMERICANS

"Mom, what's the population of Mexico?"

"I don't know." Doris was grading papers for her ninth grade social studies class. She put her pen down and went to stand in the doorway of her sons' room.

"I'd guess it's somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred million people. Why do you want to know?"

"Then how many people would you say live in Canada?"

"Again, this is just a guess, but I'd say around thirty-one million."

"And Central America?"

"Maybe thirty-five million. What's this all about?"

Scott, who was sitting on his bed, game boy in hand, looked up. "How can that be?" He stood up, walked over to his desk and pulled a calculator from the drawer. He punched the numbers in. "That's a hundred and thirty-six million people, not counting South America. How many for South America?"

"I know it's over three-hundred and sixty million."

"Wow." Scott's eyes lit up. He punched the numbers in again. That's a whopping big four-hundred and ninety-six million people." He put his hands on his hips and faced his mother. "My teacher sure is dumb."

Doris was getting a little impatient with her son's antics. "All right, Scott. Come on. What are you up to?"

Scott had that 'gotcha' look on his face. "My teacher told us the population of America was just over two-hundred and ninety-three million." He grinned so broad it looked like his face would crack. "Boy was she wrong."

"Ah ha." Doris finally caught on to her sons' prank. "Your teacher obviously meant the population of the United States. The population of the United States is the number she quoted. She didn't have the numbers wrong. You just misunderstood."

"No. I think she's the one who misunderstood." Scott unfolded a map and laid it across his desk. "Look. Look here." He pointed to the continent of North America. "That's one America." Then he pointed to the continent of South America. "That's America too."

Doris' chin dropped. "Well, Scott, you're technically correct. But when people use the term America, or American, they generally mean the United States of America and its' citizens. Everybody knows that. People in Canada are referred to as Canadians, and of course people who live in Mexico are called Mexicans. It's just common knowledge."

"Yeah, and the people in South America are called either South Americans or by the name of their individual countries. Same goes for Central America. I know that."

Doris rubbed the back of her neck and took a deep breath. "If you already knew that, why did you call me in here to do a silly math problem?"

"I just wanted to make a point. It just irks me, that's all."

"I think you just want to show your teacher up."

"Well, maybe… But it does irk me."

"Look Scott. You do have a good point. I just hope you don't put your teacher through the antics you just put me through, especially in front of the whole class. Don't you think you could find a more friendly way to make your point?"

Scott sighed. "Yeah, I suppose. But it's more fun to build a good lead up to the punch line." Scott had one of those grins on his face; you know the kind. "Say what, Mom, you're the one who taught me how to play the game of 'gotcha'. "

Doris smiled. "Yeah, and my dad taught me."

—M. LaCourt

Articles Index

AboutAbout