Editor’s Query: Tell us about a time when you freaked out an entire room

September 13, 2013

I graduated from Gallaudet University in 1980 and have been a faculty member in the Gallaudet mathematics department since 1983. I am at the age where many of my current students are the children of Gallaudet classmates; in fact, the grandmother of one of my recent students taught me art history at Gallaudet.

In the mid-1980s, I participated in a summer program where I taught a refresher course for instructors of high-school mathematics courses for the deaf; one of my students in this program was a man, then in his mid-50s, who was the father of one of my classmates.

A couple of years ago, this man’s grandson found himself in one of my classes, and when I recognized him on the first day of classes, I asked him, “Todd, how’s your mom, your dad, your grandfather?” I then said to my class of freshmen in their first day in college, “Todd’s grandfather, just a wonderful man, I taught him, one of the best students I’ve ever had.” The students, naturally believing that I had taught Todd’s grandfather when he himself was a young undergraduate, stared at me dumbfounded, trying to figure out how a middle-age man could have been teaching at Gallaudet for 50-odd years.

James Nickerson,

Olney


Through lucky circumstances, I found myself in an executive suite at the 2005 Kentucky Derby. The room was filled with people well versed in the mechanics of betting on trifectas and superfectas, while my understanding was limited to the “win” part of win, place or show.

Some friendly folks tried to give me a crash course in reading the detailed statistics about a horse’s past performance, while others just uttered a vague “I’ve got a system” before burying their nose back into their racing form.

I placed my wager on Giacomo at 50-1. I liked the name.

As the victorious Giacomo crossed the finish line, I alone was jumping up and down. “You had Giacomo?” someone asked. “Yes,” I replied calmly. “I have a system.”

David Kopcak,

Indian Head


Soon after our marriage, my wife and I decided to have a party at our new home. We invited a diverse group — neighbors, work colleagues, old friends, etc. One of our guests had been our wedding photographer. When I called to extend the invitation, Marvin told me he had been engaged to cover a bris ceremony.

Not long after our guests had arrived, I observed conversation lagging. To break the ice I called across the room, “Marvin, how was your circumcision?”

There was stunned silence as folks, including Marvin, mentally repeated what I had said. Then Marvin laconically replied, “Oh, God. I nearly fainted!”

As the background story was revealed, our guests began mingling. And maybe Marvin got a new client or two in the mix.

Fred Wyse,

Alexandria

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