Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You can't get there, from here...

"Many who would not take the last cookie would take the last lifeboat."

~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

This morning I walked across the overpass that leads from the bus stop towards the health science building just as I would any other morning, but sort of deep in pharmacokinetic thought. I know, its shocking. I will get to that part later.

Let me set the scene for the following fable.

There are always a few buses unloading at once, and thus a good-sized armada of bus-riders walking along with me, at varying speeds and with varying levels of apparent discomfort.

There are two hideous double doors ensconced into the side of the large, drab concrete building at the end of the overpass that lead into the bowels of health science land, and an important difference between them. The right side doors have a button that launch the door open in a couple of long seconds--something for disabled people or people with "hardware" (wheelchairs, etc) to use but is generally used by everyone because people are lazy.

These days, in addition to being incapable of doing anything without an iPod or cell phone attached to their skull, few human beings can open a door under their own power. So this door provides them the necessary comfort of automatic opening at the push of a button.

The other door is normal. Or what I think is normal.

This particular morning I was sauntering across the overpass considering the pk of gemcitabine, and the compartmental model I would use to solve for the various rate constants. What I came up with looks like this:

I was engrossed in how the differential rate equations would be set to solve from some of the transfer rates, and at the same time I walked to the door on the left--the human powered door. I do this naturally because 99% of the people I see walk to the automatic door. Poor weak people. I am amazed they can walk all that way if they can't even open the door.

I see in the reflection, as I get to the door, that people are coming behind me. I open the door and, continuing with my mental mathematicals, I turn and hold the door for the next person. The next thing I know she is inside the door and turns to look at me and says, through a rather rotund face framed by over-permed, over-colored trailer blond hair, "You don't have to be so grumpy about it."

"What?" Was I all I could muster as she trundled away through the NEXT set of doors. This time she went with the automatic doors.

I was baffled by this "exchange." What on earth was she referring to? I held the door open, didn't I? What did she want--a hug and a kiss and a compliment on her disgustingly over-styled receptionist-do?

I gather my expression reflected one of unhappiness. After all, I was doing calculus/pharmacokinetics in my mind while holding the door for her royal pudginess, and I expect that because I didn't smile and make insipid, polite conversation as she gathered herself through the door that I fit into the category of grumpy.

Many mental notes based on this fun little event.

1) She only saw me as a means to not have to open a door and also not stand in line for the real automatic door--thus doubling her laziness in my estimation.

2) If you are doing something out of courtesy, it is simply unacceptable to just perform the act. You must show the person to which courtesy is being bestowed upon that you are sincerely thankful to them for allowing you the opportunity to bestow said courtesy.

3) Mathematics make people look grumpy.

I could have just kept walking. I wonder if she would have used the other door, then.

That is all.


Steve Moss said...

How is it that I'm so constantly in agreement with you? Well, probably because maybe we are part of a dwindling (and I do mean dwindling) number of people who;
1- actually use our heads
2- actually think that the courtesy extended is really just that
3- are still totally amazed (and I don't mean that in a good way) by the actions, responses, and/or reactions of others
4- are not inclined to believe that since we breathe, we deserve better than what we get
I could go on and on. But, because I am commonsensical enough to understand that it's only getting worse, that there are more sap-brained losers being spawned every single second of each and every day than there are good, straight thinking folks, I know it's better to save my energy because, at any given moment, someone is going to amaze me yet again.

Jean said...

Your story makes me shake my head AND laugh. And then sigh. Chin up, you've gotta believe there's some good out there. Right? Been missing you--busy, busy, busy lately.