The Rumor Mill Isn’t Broken Down!

, , , , , , , | Learning | July 22, 2020

Years ago, a student locked himself in a windowless supply room accidentally by panicking after the light blew out and hitting the push-lock while trying to open the door. A physics professor saved the day by kicking in the door.

That year…

Sophomore #1: “Did you hear about [Physics Professor]? He kicked a door off its hinges to save a student!”

Other Professor: “It wasn’t that impressive. It was a cheap door.”

One year after…

Sophomore #2: *To a new freshman* “Last year, [Physics Professor] had to rescue a student trapped in a locked room. He knocked the door over with a single kick.”

Two years after…

Freshman: “I heard a story about [Physics Professor]. There was this student stuck in a room, and no one could get the door open, but he looked at the door and worked out where it was weak because of physics and was able to break it down!”

Four years after…

Sophomore #3: “Hey, [My Name]. Were you teaching here when [Physics Professor] had to rescue a student locked in a room? I heard he analyzed door in his head and knocked it off its hinges with a single blow.”

Me: “No, it was a cheap interior door. He just kicked it and it broke.”

Five years after…

Student:so, the story is that [Physics Professor] is looking at this door, and he realizes that because of its shape there’s a single flaw, right, so he smashes it at the perfect spot and it just shatters. [Other Professor in my department] confirmed the story!”

Six years after, the topic of fire doors comes up in a safety lecture, and one professor jokes that we need to leave them open “because we can’t all smash our way through doors” like the physics professor.

Then, the year after that…

Sophomore #4:so, the student’s stuck in a room, the building is on fire, and [Physics Professor] saves the day by analyzing the door…”

Finally, eight years after it happened, the physics professor and I are talking.

Physics Professor: “By the way… one of my new students asked me if it’s true that I used math to break a door and save a room full of students trapped in a burning building. Any idea why?”

Me: “Do you remember [Student] from eight years ago? The story seems to have mutated a bit.”

Physics Professor: “OH. Huh. Well, I told them it was all true.”


This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

Read the next July 2020 Roundup story!

Read the July 2020 Roundup!

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The Invisible Creep

, , , , | Learning | July 20, 2020

A friend of mine is in college taking a course in the sociology of the imaginary. The professor comes to talk about invisibility. 

Professor: “What would you do if you could be invisible?”

Male Student #1: “I’d go in the girls’ locker room.”

Criticism instantly pops up from the class.

Male Student #2: “Seriously, at twenty years old, there are other ways to see naked girls.”

Female Student #1: “And then, there are better things to do than to see people naked without their consent.”

[Male Student #1] realizes that he has shocked everyone and tries to defend himself.

Male Student #1: “But I never said it would be non-consensual.”

Female Student #2: “Because you need to be invisible to go and watch naked chicks who are willing to let you watch them?”

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Thinking Outside The Box

, , , , , , | Learning | July 19, 2020

I am a private tutor. I’ve given one of my students, a fifth-grader, an exercise which I call “reverse word problems”. The student gets a list of equations, and for each equation, they have to come up with a word problem that could fit the given equation. I am reading the answers he’s written.

Me: “You’re a scientist with four-fifth of a dead cow. You’re in a duplication room and you duplicate two-fifths of it. How much of a cow do you have?”

The equation for this one was “4/5 x 2/5.”

Me: *Laughing* “A… a scientist with a dead cow? Really, kid?”

Student: *Giggles* “Well, obviously. It has to be a dead cow. If you have four-fifths of a cow, how can it possibly still be alive?”

Me: *Pause* “You got me there.”

I keep reading.

Me: “You have one dollar and six friends, and you decide to split the dollar evenly between your six friends. How much of a dollar does each friend get?” *Pause* “Wait a minute; this doesn’t work.”

Student: “Yes, it does.”

Me: “No, think about it. Can a dollar divide into six equal parts?”

Student: *Indignantly* “Yes, it can!”

Me: “Okay, how?”

Student: “You take a pair of scissors and cut the bill into six equal parts!”

Me: “I— Well. That’s…”

The student laughs.

Me: “…genius. Forget I said anything.” 

This kid is going places.

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If This Is Too Complicated, Is College Right For You?

, , , , , | Learning | July 18, 2020

I work for an online university assisting people with their applications. If a student has transfer credits, they can submit a transcript request form, which gives us permission to request their transcripts on their behalf so they don’t have to pay the transcript fee. Some schools will require this form to be signed by hand as a means of fraud prevention. In this case, the student has to print out the form and do the full thing by hand; they can’t fill it out on the computer then just print that and sign it, which is what some try to do. This student, however, takes that to a new extreme.

We start working together two months before the registration deadline, so I feel confident that we will be able to get everything in on time. She submits all of her documents except for one — a hand-signed transcript request form. I send her an email with the form attached as a PDF and explicit instructions on how to complete it and send it back to us. For two weeks, I call her about twice a week, as is our policy, and every time, she says she’ll get to it later. 

Finally, I receive a notification that she sent us a form that cannot be processed. I check, and she sure did print out the PDF… and only signed the bottom, leaving the entire rest of the document blank. 

I give her a call to explain that she needs to do the whole thing by hand. She says she already completed it, and I tell her that yes, we got the form with her signature, but she needs to put in the school’s information, too, so we know where to send that form. She seems to understand and I hope she’ll turn it in.

Cue several weeks of me calling her, her insisting she already did the form, and me explaining how to do it over again. Finally, it’s two weeks before the deadline and the form still isn’t in. On top of that, she needs to complete some additional forms before her financial aid can be awarded, so I send her clear instructions on how to complete those forms. A week passes, and she hasn’t even logged into her financial aid account to get started on the forms.

I’m out of the office for a couple of days, and while I’m away, my team lead reaches out to some of my students who still need to complete documents. She tries to connect with this student, who neither answers her phone nor responds to her email but resubmits the transcript request form. It is the exact same form, blank except for her hand signature at the bottom.

At this point, it is the last week before the deadline and I am so frustrated trying to help this woman that I ask one of my coworkers who’s been here for five years to reach out to her to see if maybe she can make the student understand. She sends an extremely detailed email instructing how to do every step, from writing down the school name to noting the present date. I think that will be sufficient and wait for the completed form to arrive.

Two days later, I receive another notification that the student uploaded a document that cannot be processed. It is the exact same form, completely blank but for her hand signature. 

Thank God I’m working from home so no one could look at me funny while I throw up my hands and scream.

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The Un-Deux-Trois-Quatre-Cinq

, , , , , | Learning | July 16, 2020

I take three years of French in school before switching to Spanish. I am in eleventh grade and am in Spanish 1. We have just started learning past tense and the teacher wants the students to share something about their weekend. When she gets to me, I want to say something about celebrating my grandfather’s birthday.

Me: “Yo comi un gateau!”

Several Students: “You ate a what?!

Teacher: “I didn’t think that was legal in this country…”

For those who don’t know, “gateau” is French for “cake.” It sounds similar to “gato,” which in Spanish means “cat”! So, yeah, I told my class I ate a cat. No, they did not let me forget it, even though I corrected myself right after.

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