October 22, 2009

what is asked for is not always what is wanted (1982)

I do support the Laplace transform, but I admit that I once got yelled at for using one.

I was the new arrival in the lab. After I'd been there a couple of weeks, a more senior student told me that she had a math problem and had heard that I was good at math. Could I help? I said sure, so she handed me a piece of paper on which she had written the problem. I saw that a Laplace transform would work, so I took a pen, made the substitution, & found the solution. Done.

Was she pleased? No! She yelled at me for being a smart-ass. Evidently, what she had really wanted was not a prompt solution but rather affirmation (that hers was a hard problem) and interaction (an appointment made for a meeting to work on the problem).

Sometimes, what you are asked for is not what is wanted.

Only sometimes. Mostly, people want what they ask for. Often, they even need what they ask for. But sometimes... There's a scene in a Marx Brothers movie where a panhandler asks Harpo if he can spare some change for a cup of coffee. Harpo reaches deep into his voluminous overcoat, pulls out a fresh steaming cup of coffee on a saucer, and hands it to the gentlemen. This is funny because it is cruel because we know that the man did not want coffee.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Blog Archive