David Teitel has had a job as a cashier at health food stores since the mid-1980s. As he rings up the total of their purchases, he enjoys sharing historical facts, baseball statistics, Guinness World Records, and complicated arithmetic with customers. He calls himself an arithmetician because, in his own words, he can’t solve problems, he can only calculate fast.
David lives alone in a messy apartment where everything seems to be oddly out of place. His walls are decorated with handwritten notes to himself. These notes hold valuable information such as his to-do lists, schedules, appointments, and reminders of interesting people, places, and things. His notes help him know when he last changed his pillowcases or sheets or when he washed his jeans. When he thinks of something, he stops what he’s doing and makes the entries. This is what keeps him from total chaos, he says.
For the last 39 years, David has been living with hepatitis-C. He is currently waiting to be accepted into a new clinical trial. He attempted treatment in 2004 and 2006, but the treatment failed both times.
David’s parents were married in 1946. Just six years later, he was born. He was the second of three brothers. Growing up, he hardly ever saw his father and never spent time alone with him. His mother was a kindergarten teacher at a Hebrew school. For many years his mother and her friends gushed over him for being a little genius.
Teitel describes himself as being socially awkward. He stuck mostly to doing his homework and getting good marks— trying to live up to the image his mother had of him. Because he was good at art, his parents decided that he should be an architect. However, it wasn’t what David really wanted for himself.
When his marks plummeted all the way to the bottom of the class, David couldn’t handle the disappointment. He dropped out of university and even tried to commit suicide. In 1977 he got a job as a cashier and realized that he could use his amazing mental skills to entertain his customers.
Soon David became known as the Numbers Guy. When asked why he was working as a cashier when he could be doing so much more with his life, his response is that he was having fun and meeting nice people.