On a Scale of One to Ten

It was the nine-year old nephew 
of a famous mathematician who, 
in 1920, came up with the term 
googol— It meant a massively large
quantity of things you could't 
even see with the naked eye. 
For example, can you imagine 
what ten duotrigintillion 
subatomic particles looks like, 
or whether one could pack them 
into all the crevices of this 
earth? When a company was casting 
about for a good name for a search 
engine that could deliver almost 
infinite amounts of information, 
the story is they misspelled 
the little prodigy's term. 
Are we the only creatures 
in the universe perennially 
obsessed with numbers and 
measurement? Someone always
wants to know: if relief comes
soon, how soon? Many are gleeful
that the president's approval
rating is the lowest of all
elected to that office. And yet
another day brings what's described  
as another new low— How low could 
anyone go?  Meanwhile, we listen
as news reports count and re-count 
the number of hospital beds; 
numbers of our dead, numbers 
of the recovered. Here, when you
twitch with pain and your face 
turns pale, I'm desperate to know 
how bad it is, on a scale of one 
to ten; after the mallet strikes 
the lever and sends the puck 
on its feverish course toward 
the bell, to know how soon 
the wooden tower at last 
stops its fearful juddering.

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