Maxed Out 

The odometer turns over and adds another digit

By G.D. Maxwell

Klaatu. Barada. Nikto.

Always nice to have three or four words around you can count on to save the world from being "reduced to a burnt-out cinder." Of course, that’s really only possible when the world’s encapsulated in a two-reel, black-and-white movie like The Day the Earth Stood Still . In colour films, it takes at least four words… and two special effects.

I’m still waiting for Gort to return and make good on Klaatu’s threat, er, promise. There certainly aren’t any real signs of the people of Earth putting aside their petty squabbles and living in peace, harmony and happiness, three more words that could make things a whole lot better.

But what the heck, it is Pique’s 10 th birthday and you can borrow The Day the Earth Stood Still from the library – brand new DVD no less – so banish any negative thoughts about the Prince of Darkness being re-elected down south, not that those three things really have anything in common whatsoever. Party time. Queue up the sex, drugs and rock & roll, three more words, well four if you want to be literal, that made things a whole lot better.

So, what’s the big deal about turnin’ 10? Ask any nine year old. Double digits seem way cooler. There hasn’t been a kid who lived to 10 who didn’t think it was way, way better than being nine.

It’s also the odometer thing. The numbers are turning over, adding another digit. Next stop, the transition from 99 to 100. I don’t think it’s too disrespectful to say Pique will probably not celebrate 100. If it does, none of us will be here to have sex, take drugs or listen to rock & roll to mark the passage. But more likely than not, such quaint, antiquated things as words on paper will have long passed from the experience of mankind. We’ll either be into direct, networked communication with the massive computers that control EVERYTHING, communicate exclusively by advanced telepathy, or be back to dwelling in caves, scratching out a subsistence living and not believing stories about how Earth used to be roamed by giant machines called SUVs.

According to every English style sheet ever published – at least since the advent of movable type – you can start to use numerals once you hit 10. You have to spell out the words representing numbers below 10. I’ve never been sure why that is exactly. It’s not like even the slowest reader is going to mistake 7 for something other than six-plus-one or scratch her head wondering whether it shouldn’t really have been 77 or 777 or some other keystroke stutter. But every editor at every paper and magazine makes writers spell out one through nine and use numerals for everything from 10 to °, although most would rather you spell infinity than use that squiggly symbol.

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