I Can Count and Alphabetize Better Than You

What am I good at? Is it a sign of low self-esteem that I can’t immediately think of anything that I’m good at?

I know how to make a good grilled cheese sandwich. Peanut butter and jelly, too. I’m not a bad parent. Although I guess if my kids end up spending most of their lives in the pokey that claim might be refuted. I can write. A little bit. Sometimes I even write well enough that people like to read what I write.

Only sometimes though.

I’m good at math. I have a good memory. I can skip. Not skip school, or skip work. I mean actually skip. When I worked in a grocery store I used to skip through the aisles. And I was the manager. Maybe that’s why I don’t work in a grocery store any more.

I’m patient. Being patient is something to be proud of, don’t you think? It’s a virtue from what I hear. And it really comes in handy sometimes. I like being patient. Really patient. For a long time.

But I won’t write about it.

Instead I’ll write about two things that I’m really good at that are absolutely useless. I’ve tried to find ways to make these two talents beneficial to me. If only I could find a way to make money from them. But I can’t. All they’re good for is amazing people at parties.

And driving myself crazy sometimes.

The two talents are related.

The first talent is that I can almost instantaneously count the letters in a word. Without even counting them. So take any word…Chicago (7 letters). Buttface (8 letters). Cumulonimbus (12 letters). And because everyone always thinks they’re being original by suggesting it: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (34 letters).

The second talent is that I can almost instantaneously alphabetize the letters in a word. So, taking the letters from the previous example you get ACCGHIO, ABCEFTTU, BCILMMNOSUUU, and AAACCCDEEFGIIIIIIILLLOOPPRRSSSUUX.

Untitled22Now, the first question that most people ask is “How did you learn to do that?”

I have no idea. For as long as I can remember I’ve always counted letters in words and alphabetized them. If I’m sitting somewhere I’ll read a sign on the wall, count the letters, and alphabetize. I’ve done it since I was a kid, and I continue to do it. I don’t know why.

Inevitably people bring up Rainman. Like it’s something akin to looking at the toothpicks that fell on the floor and figuring out there are 246 of them. I can’t do that. But I can tell you that Rainman alphabetized is AAIMNNR. I didn’t have to think about that. I just did it.

This alphabetizing thing sometimes comes in handy at work. I have to maintain hundreds of files organized by last name, and it’s nice not to have to go through the alphabet to know which of two names comes first.

But what good is this “talent” other than that? If you can think of any, let me know.

Inevitably when I reveal this skill people try to trip me up. It usually doesn’t work. I’m not perfect. Sometimes I’ll miss the count by a letter, especially if there are more than 16 letters. Two groups of two groups of four letters are easy to count, more than that gets cumbersome. Alphabetizing is usually always easy.

And although I do sometimes get it wrong, I still do it better than you or anyone else you’ve ever met.

Unfortunately, that means nothing because it’s a useless skill.

However, even though it’s a useless skill, some of you won’t believe that I can actually do it. If you’re among the unbelievers, then I encourage you to call me, or come visit me, and I’ll prove it. You’ll be amazed, impressed, jealous and wonder how in the world I ever managed to perfect such an incredible talent.

You’ll wish you could do it, and you’ll want to go through the entire dictionary and find words to stump me. It’ll be tons of fun.

And I’ll only charge you ten bucks for the performance!

Once a month, during an event called Blogapalooz-Hour, ChicagoNow challenges its bloggers to write a post in one hour on a topic that's unknown to them until the hour begins. This challenge was "Without trying to be humble, write about something you're really good at." You can read all of the other challenges I've completed here. And you can read all of the other outstanding posts by ChicagoNow bloggers on this topic here.

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