My little four-year old has a lot in common with my not-four-year-old but very brilliant and well-accomplished professor. For one, they both hold my life in their hands: My daughter gives me a reason for living and my professor can help me earn a better living if he lets me graduate with a doctorate. Both of them also must imagine that I have super human powers because they demand the impossible from me! For instance, they ask me very difficult questions and they get disappointed when I don't give the correct answer.
Let me give you two concrete examples to illustrate my dilemma. My daughter asked me this yesterday: 'What does seven mean?' Silence. She repeats the question more firmly: 'MUMMY, WHAT DOES SEVEN MEAN?' I pretend to think by wearing a very pensive look. She is getting exasperated. Hesitantly, I ask 'Is it a number?'
'NO MUMMY, IT IS NOT THE NUMBER! WHAT DOES SEVEN MEAN?' Now she is shouting and very close to throwing a tantrum. I swallow hard and rack my brain for an answer. In a last ditch attempt, I start counting from one to seven to prove to her that seven is indeed a number. All hell breaks loose. She wails loudly and I desperately try to calm her down by changing the subject because I have no clue what seven means.
Enter my professor. He asks me: 'What are you going to do?' All the while he is looking piercingly into my eyes and in the process, frightening the hell out of me. I break into a cold sweat. I pretend to be thinking very hard. Blank. Nothing in my head except morbid fear. I repeat the question to him hoping that he will answer it himself, 'What am I going to do?'
In summary, these two people ask me out-of-context questions. I figured out today morning that my daughter meant 'what does seven o'clock mean'. And the right answer was supposed to be, 'it means that it is time to shower!' So easy! As for my professor, he meant to ask 'What are you going to do for your fieldwork?'
Labels: Out of context