I came across this picture today of former Formula 1 drivers Martin Brundle and Ayrton Senna. Today is Brundle’s 63rd birthday. The first thing I noticed was the hand movement, which F1 drivers seem to make. It reminded me of the famous, and similar, conversation between Mika Häkkinen and Michael Schumacher. Then, I noticed the watch and said, “Hey. I used to have that watch.”
Brundle and Senna had a fierce battle for the championship in Formula 3 in 1983, which is when this picture was taken. I, too, had a fierce battle that year with the math proctors at my junior high.
It was the end of seventh grade for me and I was about to start taking my 7th grade Algebra test. All the students who were in Algebra that year had to take the exam in the cafeteria. My regular math teacher was not in the room yet, when some other dill hole comes over to me and demands my watch. I didn’t want to give it up.
The Casio CA-50 was the second watch I’d ever owned, after my Star Wars watch. I thought it was cool because it was a watch, a calculator, a stopwatch, and you could set the date. It also had an alarm, which allowed me to get myself up in the morning. I felt super awesome wearing it.
I’ve lived my entire life struggling with emotional self-regulation. I didn’t know what it was until four years ago and am still working on it today. At age 12, I was struggling with it and undiagnosed with PTSD.
On the inside, I was freaking out because you were assigned seats for the test. I couldn’t sit in the back of the room. I didn’t have a view of the four exits from the cafeteria. I was actually placed where one of the exits was to my back. During the test, teachers used that door to go out for smoke breaks, which was not conducive to my concentration.
I wanted to keep my watch. My mom had saved to get it for me and if I lost it, there’d be hell to pay. The teacher yelled at me to give it up. She had already taken two others and a handful of scientific calculators.
“Why do you need me watch?” I said.
“So you don’t cheat,” the teacher said.
“It’s a basic calculator,” I said. “It can’t do algebraic equations.”
“Give me the damned calculator or I will throw you out and you’ll fail the year,” she said.
Oh, the amount of “fucks” and “god damns” and “hells” I said in my head. My 12-year old self wondered if this woman even knew what Algebra was. I wished Mr. Day, my Algebra teacher, had been in the room. I wore my watch every day. He knew I wasn’t a cheat and the watch couldn’t help me cheat either.
To be accused of cheating when you’ve never met me before, pissed me off. I wanted to tell this woman exactly what I was thinking, but I also knew it wasn’t going to get me anywhere except more trouble.
I reluctantly took off the watch, but marked the bottom with my black pen so I’d know if I was getting the same watch back at the end of the exam.
I was pissed. My concentration was gone. I spent half my testing time taking the test and remembering formulas, and the other half freaked out everyone someone went in or out the door while also wondering if the woman who took my watch was messing with it, broke it, or threw it away.
Until that point, I was in the highest math class. The results of this exam played a large part in which level math you were placed in for the next year. I was dropped a level for eighth grade. I still blame that bitchy woman and my undiagnosed mental health issues with the drop in math levels.
After the exam, I got my watch back. Another kid was there to get his and the shifty bastard tried to take mine. One of his buttons was stuck and it was dirty and scratched. I told him, “Fuck you, that’s mine,” noting the mark I had made on it. The teacher’s aide told me to watch my language and leave as they had had enough of me.
I grabbed my watch on and walked out the door near where I was sitting. The first thing I did was type “7734” into my calculator. Yeah, my day was 7734, but I survived. I put my watch on and walked the half mile home smiling.
Eventually, I moved up to a Casio CFX-400 calculator watch I purchased from my paper route money, which could have been used to cheat with. By the time I owned it, however, I had finished my math requirements to graduate high school, so that thought never crossed my mind. Okay, it did, but only in a “man I wish I had this in junior high” kind of fleeting thought.
I wish I had taken better care of both watches because they are in high demand today. I battered the hell out of them, usually when I fell off my bike, fell out of a tree, or fell off a roof.
I never thought I’d see a picture of two F1 legends and think about the time I fucked up my seventh grade math exam, but here we are.
Brains are weird. Welcome to mine.