In the 30-plus years since eighth grade Algebra, the need to solve a quadratic equation has never arisen. No one has ever asked me to solve for “x.” No one has asked me to write out the solution, to “show your work.” There has, apparently, never been a time in my life where I’ve needed to apply any knowledge of Algebra. Never.

Yet, after just six weeks of college classes, I managed to take something I had learned from each of my four classes and make use on a recent trip to El Paso, Texas.

For instance, on a day-trip on the Mission Trail, everything I?learned in History class about Spanish exploration and colonization came into play. My head was abuzz with the knowledge I?had gained, and could quote, of explorer and colonial governor Juan de Oñate, of Spanish missionaries, of native people’s suppression and the true first Thanksgiving held on April 30, 1598 (no Pilgrims were in attendance and turkey was not served).

Likewise, on a another day-trip on the road to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, I gained a greater understanding of Leslie Marmon Silko’s rage against border patrol checkpoints in her book, “Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today.” We read her book in Literary Studies class. Silko protested racial profiling that she says takes place at those checkpoints. Steve and I had no issues with the border patrol so we breezed through, no problem. Then, of course, we aren’t of a race that Silko says is typically profiled. I wonder now if she was right.

Since El Paso is right on the border with Mexico, it was the perfect place to practice knowledge gleaned from Spanish class. In most every store, at most every monument, at most every place, both Spanish and English are written and spoken. The closer to the border, the more Spanish there was. What a fantastic opportunity to perfect my basic Spanish skills!?What a wonderful chance to translate signs and eavesdrop on conversations!?What a thrill when I could figure out what was written, what was being said!?What fun to be able to verbalize that our waiter at the steakhouse “es muy guapo, muy, muy, muy guapo!”

And finally, because I’m actually writing about my experience, I get to practice lessons learned in Creative Writing class. Some people think that class must be easy for me, seeing as how I write lots of stuff. It’s not. Writing is more fun when homework isn’t part of the equation. It’s no fun to be forced to write.

Registration for summer classes is coming soon. I’m considering a class from the Mathematics department. Like, maybe, Algebra. Then, surely, after learning about quadratic equations once again, I’ll find reason to solve one in my everyday life. And, should the occasion arise, I would even make a point to write out the solution, to show my work.