Bill Learns the Facts of Life: the Report

by Lee Smith

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Desc: : Bill has a report to write. He asks his Dad for help and gets much more than he bargained for.

I had this assignment for school. Nothing new there but this was a little different. Most of the time school has something which I find relevant and useful but not this time. The teacher wanted all of us to do a report on the Seven Wonders of the World. "If this isn't a waste of time I don't know what is," I thought.

"How am I going to find out about the Seven Wonders of the World when I don't even know what they are? Can you say The Internet?"

After getting home and raiding the refrigerator I went to my room and I goggled the topic, looked at the screen and gulped, "243,000 returns! How am I going to do this?" I moaned to myself. "This is hopeless."

At about that time I slapped the back of my hand and chided my attitude. I had learned a few years back that feeling sorry for myself accomplished nothing and actually created more trouble in the long run.

Four hours later and page after page after page of reading I was beginning to get a handle on the subject but I was pooped; I needed a break. Like every other teenager in the world when in need of a break I went to the kitchen for a snack. My Dad was sitting at the table reading the paper. It always surprised me how well the two of us got along. Almost all my friends hated their parents. They thought their parents were too controlling, treated them like little children, didn't trust them, as infinaseum.

Dad, fortunately for me, wasn't like that. I've always thought my Dad was a study in contrasts. Physically he was actually quite short. He was about 20 pounds overweight and his hair was slowly disappearing from the top of his head. Soft-spoken, very gentle and a gentleman in the finest British tradition, my Father is the first man on his feet when a lady enters a room. He always opens doors for my Mom and my Sister and pulls out Mom's chair and seats her at the dinner table. Consequently, he expects me to do the same for my Sister. At the same time he is remarkably self-possessed. He did

doesn't try to hide his hairline. He shaves the top of his head and keeps the rest of his hair cut quite short. I mentioned he was short. If he stood up straight he might hit 5"4". While he is physically short he stands really tall. As I said, he is very sure of himself and his capabilities. His favorite line from the movies is from one of the Dirty Harry movies; "A man's got to know his limitations." That's my Dad; perfectly aware of his limitations and equally aware of his strengths. Mom was a different story. Always a lady but equally as demanding when it comes to our behavior and especially when it comes to doing our chores. Even so, she wasn't as bad as the things I kept hearing from the other teenagers.

"What's up Bill?" asked Dad looking up from his paper.

"Ah, just getting a snack. Mrs. Barnes gave us an assignment today and it looks like it's going to take a week just to reading the available information."

"Sounds interesting. What's the assignment?"

"A report on The Seven Wonders of the World."

"OK, that's a tough one all right. What are the Seven Wonders?"

"I don't know them all yet. I've just started the research but I do know the Colossus, a statue in the Greek Isles is one of them and The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is another. I'm not sure of the rest of them yet," I said, talking around a mouthful of Ham on Rye with Mayo.

Dad got up to pour himself a cup of coffee and came back to the table.

"Personally, I haven't the foggiest notion of what the Seven Wonders of the World are," he said. "I do know they no longer exist plus I know that last year there was a big flap in the news about someone naming The Seven New Wonders of the World. Frankly, I'm not sure how important the Seven Wonders are other than for general knowledge," Dad looked me straight in the eye. "However, I am absolutely positive how important it is to know and understand the Eighth Wonder of the World."

With that, my Dad shut up, picked up his paper, took a sip of coffee and went back to reading.

"He's doing it again," I thought to myself. "He's put the bait out there and is waiting to see if I'll take it or not. I think I'm going to try and turn the tables on him this time."



"It's obvious to me you think I should also know and understand this 'Eighth Wonder of the World. Is it important enough for me to know and understand right now or should I, you know, maybe wait until I finish my report on the first seven?"

Softly, Dad chuckled. He looked at me, smiled and replied "See me after you finish this report. Who knows, Mrs. Barnes might be willing to give you some extra credit if you do another on the Eighth Wonder."

I looked at him and saw something I had seen before.

The right side of his mouth had a slightly upturn in the corner plus his right eye had a couple of extra wrinkles. Over the years I had noticed this happened when he thought he had made a joke and only he knew what it was. I just shook my head and turned to leave. "Yeah, right. I'm going to do an extra report. Not if I've got anything to say about it," I said to myself as I headed back to my room to get back to work. I don't think I said it loud enough for him to hear. Anyway, I certainly didn't need the extra credit. I know this may come as a surprise but with my family as conscientious as they are it pretty certain I'm going to be doing the best I can or they're going to know why.Two days later I went looking for Dad. I had a problem and I figured he was just the guy to point me in the right direction. I found him in his shop working on some do-dad but I wasn't about to ask.

"Dad, I've got a small problem and I could use your help," I said.

He looked up from whatever it was, "What sort of problem?"

"Well, you know that report I was working on?" I said.

"The one on the Seven Wonders of the World?"

"That's the one," I said. "The problem I have too much information. Some of its good information and some is just conjecture. It's hard to keep everything straight."

Dad looked at me, took a few seconds to think about what he wanted to say like he always does and, "Son, you need to organize what you've got into nine sections. The first section should be your introduction. The next seven are each of the Wonders. The ninth section would be your conclusion.'

"Whoa up there, Pop," I jumped in. "Can you give some sort of examples what you mean?"

"OK, for example, take nine sheets of paper and write a title on the top of each one. First one would be 'Introduction', the next seven be each be a Wonder and the last would 'Conclusion'. For instance, in the introduction you might want to point out how many of the Wonders are just myth and how many are, or were, real.

"Now, under each Wonder find three or four things you thought was really interesting and list them. Do the same thing for your conclusion. After you've gotten your points down just start writing using your points as your guideline and trying to be a smooth as you can."

He stopped and let me think a minute and then asked, "Does that help?"

"I think so," I looked up. "Thanks," and left to go back to work

I couldn't believe it! I received an A- for my report. I couldn't wait to tell Dad and Mom. 'In fact', I thought to myself, 'I'll tell them at dinner tonight.'

"Man oh man, Chicken and Dumplings for dinner! Mom, have I told you lately I love you?" Mom knew this was one of my favorite dinners.

She just smiled and went about her work. "Flattery won't get you anywhere and you know it. But, it can't hurt."

After three helpings I stopped stuffing myself long enough to break the news.

"Mom, Dad, I got some good news today."

Both of them put down their forks, looked at me expectantly and waited. I leaned back in my chair, smiled and said," I got an A- on my report on the Seven Wonders of the World. The teacher told me it was one of the best organized reports she received. I owe it all to you Dad. Thanks."

"My pleasure Son."

Mom jumped up. "Something like that deserves something special. I just happen to have an Apple Pie and some Vanilla Ice Cream. Who wants some?"

Silly question.

After we all had our desserts in front of us I looked at Dad and said to him, "You know you've been driving me crazy with you Eighth Wonder of the World. I asked Mrs. Barnes if she knew what it was and she said she'd never heard of it. You two must think a lot alike. She also mentioned something about extra credit. Are you ready to tell me about it now or do I have to wait some more?"

Dad laughed. "How about we finish our desserts and you and I will get together in my office and I'll tell you all about it."

Dad sat behind his desk and I took one of the more comfortable chairs. I had a feeling this could turn out to be a long but interesting evening. In the past Dad has shown a tendency to pick subjects that were quite interesting plus he had a way of presenting them that just seemed to grab my attention.

"Bill," he started, "What I'm going to talk to you about is something that is very real. In some circles it has been called 'one of the most powerful forces of nature.' Using this force properly anyone can use it to multiply certain items over and over again until you have 10, 50,100 or more times then what you started with."

'Whoa!' I thought. I interrupted. "Dad, if this Wonder is that powerful, how come I haven't heard of it?"

"Oh, I'm pretty sure you've at least heard of it even if you didn't realize what it was you were hearing. In the course of this discussion, assuming you stay with me long enough to hear me out, I'm going to show you how the Eighth Wonder can help you achieve all your dreams," He looked at me and gave his patented 'I know something you don't' smile. "I promise.

"First, let me ask you a simple question." Looking me right in the eye he continued, "How much would you have if saved $10 a month, every month, for one year?"

My first thought was, 'What's this got to do with the Eighth Wonder of the World.' My second thought was, 'Dad loves trick questions and asking questions that make people think, ' so I actually thought about it for a few seconds and then answered, "Well, there are twelve months in a year so I would have $10 times 12 or $120."

"Very good," he said "but, you forgot interest. Savings institutions generally pay you a small fee for being allowed to rent your money. They call it 'interest'. The little bit of interest is a reward for saving your money with them. At the Credit Union I belong to they pay 2% interest compounded monthly. Move around here so you can see what I'm doing."

I moved the chair around so I sat beside him and watched as he opened up his spreadsheet program. Starting at Row 3 he numbered the rows in the first column 1 through 12, He then used the first two rows as column headings. The second column he titled ''In Account', the third column he titled '+', the fourth was 'Deposit', the fifth '+', the sixth 'Interest / Mo', the seventh he titled '=' and the eighth was 'Balance'. Next he copied all the plus signs and equal sign and pasted them down their respective columns to row 12. Now he entered $10 in Row 3, Column 2 as the initial deposit. He left the 'deposit' column blank saying, "In the first month you make your initial deposit. You won't make an additional deposits until your second month."

He then went to the interest column and set up a formula. "Son, when a bank figures its interest it figures it on a yearly basis. So, the first thing we have to enter is a quantity of $10 times 2% or .02 to get the annual interest. Then we divide the annual interest by 12 to get the monthly interest. So, your formula will look like this ($10 .02)/12 or 2¢. Next, we do the formula to get your balance which is your initial deposit plus your deposit plus your interest or $10.02."

I was absolutely dumbfounded. "Dad, I always thought interest was supposed to be a good thing. Two cents is nothing. I won't bend over to pick up two pennies on the street. Why would I bother to make deposits and save if that's all I'm going to get?"

"Bill, you are exactly right but give me a few more minutes and maybe I can make sense of all this. Okay?"

"Okay Dad."

"Thank you Young Sir. Now, to finish this one-year exercise we have to do a little bit different formula. First, we have to bring your balance down to the 'In Acct' column in year 2. Now we add the $10 deposit you make for month 2. That goes in your 'Deposit' column so your columns look like this, $10.02 + $10.00. Your new formula for the interest column is a little more complicated. Remember from your Algebra that formulas always work from the inside out."

"Right, I remember that," I said.

"Good, so here's the whole formula first then we'll work it out so you can see exactly what happens. (('In Acct' + 'deposit')interest)/12. Now, working from the inside out, you always do what is in parenthesis first, and, if there is more than one set of parentheses you do the innermost first and work your way out. So, the first thing to do is add the 'In Acct' and 'Deposit' together. Then you multiply that total by .02 or the interest rate. Then you divide that answer by 12. In other words you add $10.02 and $10 to get $20.05. You multiply that by .02 to get 40.01¢. Then you divide the 40.01¢ by 12 to get 3¢ interest. Now add the whole thing together and your new balance is $20.05."

We completed the rest of the year and got a total of $121.31.

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