I’m at work. I work with books. Things are going well. I open to the back of the book to see how many pages …

AAAaaaah!!!! There it is! In a children’s book no less! Will it never leave me alone?

The thing I can never wrap my brain around. I almost get it, but then it slips away.

It ruined the James Taylor concert 35 years ago. It was under a big starlit sky on a big blanket on a big hill with a big group of friends. Someone casually told me the riddle before the concert.

There is no “casual” to this brain when something so simple isn’t making sense. My night went something like this:

Well, the first of December was covered…

OK, they each started paying ten bucks.

…with snow. And so was the turnpike…

But if the tip was…

Can’t you just feel the moonshine…

But that still is only $29.

Some months later, I was to rest in peace with this after somebody told me that the solution to the riddle was the simple fact that there is a flaw in our mathematical system.

Many years later, when I casually told someone at work who had an engineering type of brain about the riddle that takes cruel advantage of the flaw in our mathematical system, he said What???? I told him the riddle and he casually explained that there was no flaw in the mathematical system, the flaw was in the thinking (a polite way of saying my thinking). He explained it. I would almost get it, but the knowing would just slip through my brain like tefloned slime.

So, now, I am again presented with the riddle. I’ll probably be lured in again. Maybe I’ll start to get it. Should I bother trying to retain the explanation?

I think I’ll use that missing dollar to buy a pass from ever having to think about this riddle again.

The Riddle

Three friends find a cheap motel room to share. It’s only $30, so they each pay $10 and go up to the room.

A few minutes later, the bellhop knocks on their door. He tells them they should have gotten the weeknight rate of $25 for the room and gives them back $5.

The friends are so impressed with the bellhop’s honesty that they tip him $2 and keep $1 each.

So, if the room really only costs each friend $9 and the bellhop got a $2 tip, that’s $27 plus $2 for a total of $29.

What happened to the other $1?

If anyone wants me to follow up with the so-called solution to this, I will happily do so after you convince me you’ve gone through days of angst which include an experience of inattentiveness at some sort of entertainment venue.