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No favorites

Want to know how to annoy kids of all ages?

When they ask you for your favorite number or color, tell them you don’t have one. It completely disrupts their understanding of the world. For some, it’s as if the entire planet has shifted on its axis, and the apocalypse is near.

What makes it even better is I’m not lying when I say this.

I have no favorite number, and I have no favorite color. I tell the kids that my preferences are based on context.

Am I playing blackjack? Then my favorite number is 21.

Am I eating hotdogs? In that case, one is just right. Two is fantastic but later filled with regret.

Am I playing golf? Then it’s the number equal to par on any hole.

Are we talking about salary? If so, my favorite number is the largest number available.

It all depends on the situation.

The same goes for colors.

If I’m about to step into a lake, blue is my favorite color.

If I’m choosing a color for my wife to wear, white is best.

If we’re talking about my front lawn, I prefer green.

If I’m looking for something to wear, I usually choose black for its simplicity.

But say this to a class of elementary school students and watch many of them lose their minds. They will argue, complain, whine, plead, and insist I choose one.

A student once wrote a three-page essay on why I should have a favorite color.

But I hold firm on my lack of preference, both because it’s true and annoys children to death. For some reason, children see my lack of a favorite color or number as a violation of the space-time continuum. A contravention of the laws of physics. A breach of the moral code. A transgression of basic human decency.

Often, it’s rage-inducing.

Also hilarious to watch.

NPR’s Robert Krulwich wrote about a mathematician’s project to collect the favorite numbers of people from around the world. His post includes some of the more interesting reasons why participants in the survey have chosen their favorite number.

And just for the record, that mathematician’s original survey included an option indicating “No favorite number,” so I’m not alone in my lack of preference. Apparently, there are enough of us to warrant an option on his survey.