I've never been a numbers girl -- never been a math aficionado. Words are more my thing, except for zero, which always makes me hungry. Put a huge, fat, succulent zero in front of me, and I'm immediately famished.

Other than that, math and I are a lethal combination. For example, take what is known as a mixture problem: if a Volkswagen traveling at a speed of 30 miles per hour and carrying two passengers and a golden retriever bumps into a school bus traveling at a speed of 20 miles per hour and carrying a driver and 15 children and sustains a flat tire, who should change the tire?

My answer: Who cares? Call AAA. And, upon further reflection, why is the Volkswagen following the school bus that closely anyway?

This, I learned, was not the point. The point is, I'm a failure at math, except for one exception: my algebra teacher, Mrs. Roth, whom I liked, and who made me feel I wasn't entirely hopeless. Mrs. Roth encouraged me. She made me think I could conquer the problem. She believed in me. She also told me she liked the smell of my cologne and wanted to know where she could buy some. As a result, I studied hard to please her and ended up with an A. This proves that even a math deviant who smells good can succeed.

After my brief brush with algebra glory, I spiraled downward and hit my all-time math slump.

I recently told a friend that I didn't win the $250 million powerball lottery.

"Why?" he said. "Didn't you buy a ticket?"

"Yes," I said, "I bought a ticket. I just didn't arrange the numbers properly."

He was aghast. I agreed. It was rather shocking. If I were more adept in math, surely I'd be sitting on a pile of money at this very moment.

I have ruminated over the matter for years: is it easier to get through life being numbers or words proficient? So far, I've gotten by on words, which suit my personality and allow me to express myself better than numbers do. This means I can talk my way out of any dilemma by conjuring up the right combination of words. Numbers just don't elicit the same results.

For instance, when I was stopped for "traveling too fast" in a 35-mile -per-hour speed zone, where I was going 60, the officer and I exchanged the most illuminating pleasantries.

Cop: "Do you realize you were traveling 60 in a 35 mile speed zone?"

Me: "Officer, I am terribly sorry. Indeed, I wasn't paying close enough attention to the sign, which clearly indicates that I was traveling well above the speed limit. As an upstanding American citizen, who gives much credence to rules of the road, I would have to classify myself as a driver who erred, temporarily caught off-guard by a deer that was crossing the road. In order to avoid hitting the deer on the way to his children, I became slightly unnerved. Being that this is my very first offense, and understanding that I am an animal-rights activist, I appeal to your kindness and beg your forgiveness. It will never happen again."

"Lady," he said, slightly exhausted from my diatribe, and backing down, "do me a favor. Slow down, and have a nice day."

If the exchange had gone the numbers route, it would have been an entirely different case scenario:

Cop: "Do you realize you were traveling 60 in a 35 mile speed zone?"

Me: "No. I believe I was doing 50."

Cop: "50 is over the speed limit."

Me; "I thought 55 was the speed limit."

Cop: "Are you being a wise guy."

Me; " Impossible. The law clearly states that 55 is the speed limit. I was 5 miles over -- a minor technicality."

Cop: "Are you telling me the law? I don't like your arrogant demeanor. It's argumentative and disrespectful. Next time pay attention to the sign, and lose the attitude."

He would have handed over a ticket and told me to watch my step.

The power of words, I decided, is far more effective than the power of numbers.

"I'd like a quarter pound of sliced turkey," I recently told the deli man.

"That's it? A quarter pound?"

"I'm a light eater," I said. "I can make a quarter pound go far."

"I don't think so," he said, slipping me a few extra slices. "It's on me, but don't let it get around."

That's what I mean: words over numbers.

Hey, who's counting?

Judith Marks-White is a Westport writer, and her "In Other Words" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at joodth@snet.net or at www.judithmarks-white.com