the man who loved numbers (12) athletic contests

Even when Erdös was in his eighties, they still played table tennis occasionally. "I'd give him 19 points and play sitting down," said Graham. "But his eyesight was so bad that I could just lob the ball high into the air and he'd lose of it."

In later years, Erdös came up with novel athletic contests at which he would seem to have more of a chance, although he lost. "Paul liked to imagine situations," said Graham. "For example, he wondered whether I could stairs twice as fast as he could. We decided to see. I ran a stopwatch as we both up 20 flights in an Atlanta hotel.

"When he got to the top, , I punched the stopwatch but accidentally the times. I told him we'd have to do it again. 'We're not doing it again,' he and off.

"Another time, in Newark airport, Erdös asked me how hard it was to go up a down escalator. I told him it could be done and I demonstrated. 'That was harder than I thought,' I said. 'That looks easy,' he said. 'I'm, sure you couldn't do it,' I said. 'That's ,' he said. 'Of course I can.'

"Erdös took about four steps up the escalator and then fell over on his stomach and down to the bottom. People were staring at him. He was wearing this ratty coat and looked like he was a from the Bowery. He was afterward. 'I got ,' he said."