Autistic Numbers Whiz Thrives in Brooklyn Store

I came to Kramer's hardware in Brooklyn, N.Y., to meet a man name George, who everyone said would give me an interview unlike any I'd ever done before.

His responses to questions about when customers starting coming in and what the store was like in the old days didn't result in much of a response.

Then I realized I was asking the wrong questions.

George's boss, Isaac Abraham, says I should have started out by asking him something like - what's the inventory control number on this random set of faucet handles?

"99-0163, they're Centrals," George quickly responded.

He's right. And he can do it with just about every part in the place.

Abraham compares George's incredible memory and ability to track endless numbers and quantities of inventory to that of Dustin Hoffman's character in the film "Rain Man." Hoffman won an Oscar for his portrayal of an autistic savant.

"He qualifies to be Rain Man number two," says Abraham.

Born with what doctors said back then was a developmental disability, George started working at his father's hardware store in 1951.

When Abraham bought the place 30 years later, he kept George on - partly as a promise to George's dad -- but mostly because Isaac realized that the place would fall apart without George.

When asked what George does for the store, Abraham said, "Basically everything."

The store doesn't need a computer, he says. George keeps track of all this inventory - in his head.

He also knows the phone numbers of all the suppliers, and can even tell you how to get there. Never mind that he doesn't drive and has never even been there himself.

No one can say for sure how he does it or why genius would manifest itself through hardware parts.

But one thing is obvious -- it gives his life order -- and order, for all of us, is comfort.
  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.

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