Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Professor and the Worker

         There once lived a professor. He was not the kind, gentle sort of professor that you find at universities, he was quite the opposite. He spent most of his hours with his nose in a book, squinting through his reading spectacles as if he needed a new prescription. The time he did not use for reading he spent telling people, with which he was debating, that he was right (and they were wrong) again. He was the sort of person to never admit that he was wrong. He always knew the answer to everything, and if he didn't, he would put an air about him to act as if he did.

          This professor lived on a working farm, but he (of course) did not work it. It might seem odd for a professor to own a farm, especially a professor who cares only of knowledge, but he once read a book about the benefits of farming, and ever since he has owned one. He could have closed the farm many years ago, but then he would have to admit that he does not always know everything, and that would not do. He just left his farm in the hands of his workers, ignoring it the best that he could.

          Five years ago, when he first had the notion of opening a working farm, the professor hired a worker to keep the dairy and poultry. He hired the worker under a 10 year contract that he wrote himself. The professor wrote the contract in such a way that the worker had to work under the contract unless the professor made it void.

          Soon it turned out that the worker and the professor were not compatible. It seemed that the professor would always irritate the worker with annoying facts to display his knowledge, and the worker would always irritate the professor by interrupting his reading. It went on this way for five years, and the professor knew that he should void the contract. But if he voided the contract he would have to admit that he does not always know everything. And so the professor didn't void the contract, no matter how much both of them wanted it to be void.

          One shining day, on the fifth anniversary of the contract, the worker knocked on the big doors to the home’s library. He dreaded every time that he had to knock on that door, because he knew that the professor dreaded it also. He came by the library only once a week to ask the professor for the papers. The farm raised eggs, chicken, milk and cows for sale. The professor kept all of the mailed forms in his office until the worker came by and asked for them.

          The worker knocked on the door again. He opened the door and shut it behind him. The professor was squinting through his reading spectacles as usual, this time with his nose in a book on astronomy. “Sir?” The worker asked. The professor didn't reply. “Sir?” The worker asked again.

          “Hmm.” Groaned the professor.

          “Sir?” The worker asked for the third time. “I’m here to collect the order forms.”

          The professor lifted his eyes above his spectacles and looked at the worker. “Are you aware that the earth is 92,960,000 miles from the sun?”

          The worker replied, “No, sir.”

          “That’s what I thought.” The professor’s eyes drifted back to the book.

          “Sir? I’m here to collect the order forms.” The worker said again.

          The professor looked up at the worker again, this time with slight annoyance. He gathered some dusty, wrinkled papers that had been scattered on his desk and handed them to the worker. “Here.”

          The worker stepped out of the library with the papers in his hand. He leaned against the door and looked at the orders. A small-budget farmer ordered a chicken, an old lady ordered a dozen eggs and a “big wig” ordered 30 cows. “Thirty cows?” The worker said to himself in disbelief. He shook his head as he went outside to the big porch.

          One of the other workers was there waiting for him. “How was the professor this time?”

          “Alright.” The worker replied. He looked down at the papers in his hand. “I need you to get to work on a big order.”

          “How big?” The other worker asked.

          “Thirty milk cows.”

          The other worker sighed. “Thirty? I better get going.” He said as he took the order and headed off.

          Within a week, the orders had been filled. The worker went inside the big house, to a filing room next to the library. He took the 30 cow order and filed it under “C”. The worker looked at the chicken order as he put it away. He stood there a moment, and then he pulled it back out. He stared at the order, under “Time Delivered”. There was nothing written there. He checked the dozen eggs order to discover that it was blank, too. He looked at the cow order, but it was fine.

          The worker groaned, “I have no idea when the dozen eggs and the chicken arrived.” He mumbled. The professor was a meticulous sort of filer. Once a month he checked every new order, to maintain a neat business. If there was but a little smudge of ink on the order, he would have the worker redo it. He once read that a good business comes from proper organization, so from them on he has been a meticulous filer.

          The worker knew that the professor would notice the blank spots, so he carried the papers to the library door. He practiced what he was going to say in the least-bothering way possible. “Sir, I have a question for you. Did the chicken arrive at the farmer’s house yet?” No, that didn't sound right. “When did the dozen eggs deliver?” No, neither did that.

          “Worker?” The professor asked. “You know I despise spying.”

          The worker opened the door and stepped inside the library. “I wasn't spying, sir.”

          The professor looked in annoyance. “What was it that you wanted, then?” Without waiting for a reply, the professor turned back to his book.

          “Sir?” Asked the worker. “I have a question for you.”

          The professor replied gruffly, without looking up from his book, “Can’t you ask somebody else?”

          “No, sir. You’re the only one who might know the answer.” The professor was the only one who knew the arrival date of orders.

          “Oh? Is that so?” The idea that he could answer a difficult question and show off his knowledge sparked the professor’s interest. He shut his book and set it on the desk.

          “Sir?” Asked the worker. “Which came first, the chicken or the eggs?”

          The professor stared at the worker. He thought about every book he had ever read. He scanned the books on his shelves and tried to contemplate. But he knew that the question could not be answered. “I know the answer, but it is long and complicated. Let me think of a good way to explain it briefly so that you will understand.” He rambled on in such a way that eventually the worker left the room. The professor didn't know the answer, and he didn't know what to do.

          From that day forward, the professor spent his time looking for the answer to the question that seemed so simple to the worker and so baffling to him. He never admitted that he didn't know, and the worker left the matter alone.

          To this day, the farm doesn't know which came first, the chicken or the eggs.

The End