Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Singular Solution to an Extraooordinary Problem

All the long way home from Wyoming to Michigan, we kept ourselves sane in the car through a time-tested method: story-telling. However, it was not we who told each other stories. No, we let Garrison Keillor, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain do that. It's amazing what you can get for free if you troll the internet. We especially appreciated the surly Russian dude who announces the disk headings at audiobooksforfree.com. After a time or two, we half expected him to say "audio-books-for-free-dot-comrade."

The Sherlock Holmes mysteries were our favorites. None of us had ever read any before. "Why are people so crazy about mysteries?" I have always wondered. Now I know. After a while, we all started to adopt the speech conventions of Mr. Holmes, especially the word "singular" which seems to be used for every occasion. We liked the way Holmes can take one look at a person and then astound them by telling them their entire life story: "you are near-sighted, you type for a living, you have recently been to China, you left home in a hurry this morning, your financial situation has recently deteriorated, and you take two lumps with your tea." This serves to freak out the client so that they will do whatever he says.

I began to think I should use a similar approach with my students when they come to see me in my office: "I deduce from the circles under your eyes that you have been up all night working on my paper. However, I note that you consider perfect nails, hair, and make-up more important than running a spell-check. From your bibliography, I deduce that you have never set foot in an actual library, you are in the habit of IM-ing while you do 'research' on the internet, and you drink lattes. Note the stain. Now, about that grade..."

1 comment:

Matt said...

Glad to hear you arrived home safely, guys.