What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I'm sure it'll be fine (part two)

Continued from part one.

The Math Department was housed in the armpit of campus. Green, unkempt ivy covered the walls and almost obscured the main door. Posters, some dating as far back as ten years, coated the walls and decomposed in unruly piles of scrap paper on the cement sidewalk. I could vaguely make out arcane math symbols, formulas (or is it "formulae?" Wait, formulae is what you give to an infant, right? No, that's a pacifier. Isn't a "pacifier" an ocean? No, wait, it's a dove...) and pictures of nerdy looking students. This was where I was to spend the next semester.

My math class wasn't as sophisticated as its setting makes it sound. While it had calculus in the name, the course was designed for underachievers who need the C word (not the letter, but the word. And not that word, you perv. C-a-l-c-u-l-u-s) on their transcript, but don't ever want to take a derivative. The class is, I was told, very difficult if offered by most professors, but would be a breeze with Dr. Zoloft, a veteran of the department who, his past students advertised, lectures with an almost medicated calm.

Dr. Zoloft's office was on the left and I pounded on the door with a vigorous confidence. I wanted this Zoloft person to know I wasn't going to back down. It took a minute, but the door finally creaked open revealing a bearded gentleman in a threadbare cardigan and faded blue slacks. The professor adjusted his spectacles in a manner that could only be described as condescending and looked at me, sizing me up.

Then he spoke. "Haoeryoo." The words ran together, even though it took Dr. Zoloft almost ten seconds to say his greeting. At least I think it was a greeting. I wanted to ask the man to repeat himself or apologize for my hearing, which I busted a few years ago along with my "give a dang," but I did not want to surrender my veneer of confidence. I would not back down simply because my professor had a strong accent or was chewing a croissant or whatever reason he had for speaking like an outpatient in the recovery room after a pre-frontal lobotomy.

"No thank you, I quit," I said, enunciating every syllable as if speaking to a child. I think Zoloft understood because he looked at me oddly for several seconds, before stepping out of the way and inviting me into his office. Inside, mathematical formulas (or is it...oh, never mind!) coated the entire wall across from his desk. Symbols and numbers that are rarely seen outside of Sergey Brin and Larry Paige's cranial cavities. I took a seat next to a pencil drawing of Euclid of Alexandria and waited for Zoloft to proceed.

"Sooyoo takeh maths forteer-fortee five, eh?" Zoloft was starting the conversation with a question. Voice inflection gives that away almost universally. I nodded an affirmative response. Zoloft looked at me again, his eyes revealing a reassessment of his original evaluation. I sat still, feeling like a peeled orange as the mathematics professor drew away to his computer and entered a few practiced commands. A laser printer started humming and two sheets of warm paper spilled out onto the tray.

Zoloft motioned and I picked up the pages. It was an assessment test. My give a dang fixed itself pretty quickly as I muttered under my breath. I hated assessment tests. The first page was an explanation of the rules, so I skipped to the second, where an ominous looking math problem stared at me like a sushi dish:

I had no idea where to begin, but I knew that the toughest math problems do not have a single defined solution. So I doodled excessively, filling up an entire page with senseless reiterations of the above and at the bottom of the page wrote in neat English:


With all the confidence of a cocky FCN contributor, I handed the paper to Dr. Zoloft who examined it closely, grunting with the effort. Zoloft smiled and nodded, circling a part of my doodle in red ink. Then he paused, paralyzed by something new. He turned abruptly to his TI-86 and began punching numbers frantically. His eyes wide, he looked at a drawing on his office wall and consulted a heavily marked chalk board for a few doodles of his own. He paused once during this exercise and looked at me with an air of pure surprise, shaking his head ever so slightly in the process. Then he motioned for me to leave and shut the door after me. Our interview was over.

1 comment:

Tim said...

a = 0 or a = Pi/x