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Travels With a Frustrated Calculus Student

by Michael Lawrence


A blood curdling scream.

I didnít really want to start this story off with a sentence fragment. My high school English teacher would probably convulse if he ever read this! But, what I am trying to accomplish here is for you (the reader) to picture the most grotesque, blood curdling scream that youíve ever heard in your entire life. It almost sounds like the producer of this noise is removing his toenails with a razorblade.

Sorry to get so graphic there about the toenails and razorblades, but this is a most painful scream and that was really the only adequate way to describe it! Well, then again, I guess it would also be similar to the sound one would make while electrocuting their eyeballsÖ I wonít get into that any further.

Letís see what this person is screaming about! Perhaps we could help!

Oh my! Itís coming from that university over there! In Connecticut! Hurry! Letís follow the sound!

It sounds like itís coming from that residence hall, doesnít it? Oh no! The scream is getting worse!

No! Donít take the elevator, itís too slow, the stairs are over there!

Oh my! Itís coming from the third floor! Weíre getting closer!

Open the door! Hurry!!

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHH AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH NO NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!" yells a teenaged college student, his face red, his hands on his ears. He continues this most hysterical yell for about thirty seconds but suddenly stops. It isnít apparent why he stopped all of the sudden, but he did. You can still hear the room echoing.

"Oh, hello, I didnít see you come in. Have a seat on the bed," the now quite calm, previously frantic, student said. "I was just finishing my calculus assignment."

Now is probably a good time to point out the fact that this room is the most disgusting thing youíll ever want to (or most likely not want to) see. The sight of dirty clothes, moldy sandwiches, and the sticky floor (whenever you can actually see the floor) isnít the worst bit. Itís that absolutely terrible stench! In fact, this room is so stinky, that you have to cover your nose to keep from barfing, which might actually freshen this room up a bit!

"Donít worry about that pile underwear on the bed, most of them are probably clean," the college student says to you.

"And Iím sorry about the smell! The other night, my roommate decided that pouring a pint of chocolate milk down the heater would be amusing.

"Actually, youíve come at a fairly bad time, Iím nearly ready to go to calculus lecture. Would you like to come with me?

"Are you sure?

"Very well! It starts in about ten minutes, so weíd better hurry!

"Youíve been running from where? Why on Earth did you run all the way from there? Well you do seem to be out of breath, but Iím almost late for lecture so if you donít want to go, you are more than welcome to remain here--

"You want to go? Good, but weíd better leave now.

"Iíll get the door.

"Oh hello, Butch! This is Butch! I would introduce you to two further, but Iím afraid Iím still running rather late, maybe later.

"What?

"Oh, donít worry about him. I assure you that those sounds are just natural body functions.

"Weíd better take the stairs. That is the slowest elevator in the world! They probably built that thing before elevators were even invented!

"Ooo! Watch your step!

"My, my! Isnít this a beautiful morning? Too bad I have to spend it in Hell!

"What?

"Yes, of course! Calculus is that terrible! Youíll see what I mean when we get there.

"Okay, that building straight ahead is Huss Hall, our destination.

"Have you ever wondered why they call all these buildings Ďhalls?í

"You havenít?

"Well, calling these places Ďhallsí never made sense to me considering the only thing hall-ish about them is the fact that there are hallways inside. But thatís no reason to call a building a Ďhallí then, is it? If that were the case, Buckingham Palace would be called Buckingham Hall and the White House would be the White Hall because they certainly have halls. Well, what I heard is that in every college built before 1850, Huss Hall, as well as the rest of the halls in America, were known as hells. And then some religious fanatics protested this and had the names changed to halls. When you think about it, though, ĎHuss Hellí makes much more sense.

"What, you donít believe me?

"I donít believe me either.

"Okay room 101 Huss Hell is coming up.

"Yes, this is an absolutely humungous classroom! It actually has a higher population than my hometown!

"What?

"Iím from Boston.

"Okay, see that woman down there?

"Yes that one.

"No, thatís not the janitor. Thatís the calculus professor. Sheís from Sweden.

"Yes! She does have a funny foreign accent. Unfortunately the only words we can understand out of her are Ďno,í Ďyah,í and ĎGud mernin, der classenfargens.í

"It sure does make it difficult to learn calculus from somebody who doesnít know how to properly pronounce the class sheís teaching.

"Ooo! ShhhÖ Class is about to start!" everybody in the room silenced to listen to the lecture.

"Gud mernin, der classenfargens. Toder garfga und hregransa darfka, yah? Gouda, yer sharften calcularga dah mershna farkz. Chaptagarka ferrga treega, der chainga rulga," the calculus instructor said. After several minutes of lecture, the college student, who you have been following around all day (for some reason), shoots his hand into the air.

"Professor Inga! In this case, wouldnít you multiply the sub-denominator by the primary numerator, cross multiply the inverse fraction, then subtract the entire minor-quantity with the square root of the determinant, find the new multiplier by finding the lowest common denominator, divide it by its factor times eight, find the nano-derivative, and then take it out to dinner?" he asks.

"No. Yah garta farthen dah derka farker. Therka und tarrgengarter, DEN merfkalarken," the calculus professor responds with her index finger pointed into the air, correcting the student.

"Oh I see! Thank you, Professor," the college student says, relieved.

"Jeritargen? Marfa derggalar?" the calculus professor asks the student.

"No, I wasnít asking you out on a date," he responds.

The calculus professor continuesÖ "tyrarfka subtrartarten merf dah tarten. Copenhagen ingrid bergman der gradda dragarfken dah fjords. CraÖÖ"

Sometime later, the student raises his hand again.

"Professor! Whatís that symbol that you just wrote? What does that mean?" he asks.

"Dat der eez dee tee onda doogla soobtractunfargen."

"Thatís the ĎTí on Ďsubtraction?í Silly me!" the student responds.

"Hrothgar, jerjulggy marmarmarften?" the calculus teacher asks the student.

"No, I am really quite busy Friday night," the student responds.

The calculus teacher continuesÖ againÖ "Yolarfkka tegarten der farthen marthen. Dugorrkia morgah duh marga schmeleffarga dat der fjord. Mah cherrycholarten, yah? Cralcka germafkart dah jar jar binks dun goatargen jaÖÖ inkola--ÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ.... HELLO, IíM THE BLUE FAIRY BUNNY! AND IíM GOING TO MAKE JELLO! OH NO! WHO IS THAT? IS THAT MRS. MONKEY? SHE DOESNíT WANT ME TO MAKE JELLO FOR YOU BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN A VERY NAUGHTY CHILD! THE BLUE SOCKS GO INSIDE THE SECOND DRESSER DRAWER NOT INSIDE THE BIRDBATH! OOOOO! YOUíRE FIRED! JUST PACK UP YOUR BELONGINGS, CLEAN OUT YOUR DESK, AND LEAVE! YOUíRE THROUGH, YOUíLL NEVER CLEAN DENTISTíS SPIT RECEPTICLES IN THIS TOWN AGAI---"

Now why did you have to go and fall asleep? You could have learned something!!

---Interesting dream you had there.

"Hey! Wake up, you! The lectureís over!" the student says, disturbing you from your restful slumber.

"Oh donít worry! I didnít learn any calculus either. In fact, the last half of the lecture was about how to deep fat fry toast.

"I really donít know why she would teach us something like that, either. She does seem to give these very strange lectures.

"Thereís a funny story involving this that youíd might like to hear. I remember one day, she taught us how to properly apply CPR on a small child. And at that very same lecture, my friend sitting next to me swears that she was telling us something about how to make corndogs if your stuck in a blizzard in the wilderness. Strange, isnít it?

"Well, I need to turn in my homework now, would you like to tag along?

"Oh good! This is always an adventure! Turning in your homework is a moment of truth, I always say.

"I donít know why.

"Every Friday, the weekís homework is due, so we put it into this very large slot where it flows through a very large tunnel. There, itís met by a score of graders and if you get a question wrong, you lose two points; if you get a question right, you lose three points.

"No! I was just joking there! What they do is worse! The teachers assign at least 30 homework problems per week. However, the graders, whomever they may be, are only required to judge your entire assignment by grading four problems. And because they live in a troll dungeon, they look throughout your assignment and choose the four you have happened to miscalculate or overlook. Itís an interesting system, but it does make it rather hard to pass the class. In fact, through some strange twist of fate, I have gotten all the problems right once on an assignment, and the next week, I got it back with the words ĎDIE BASTARDí scrawled all over the pages in blood.

"Well, Iím going to go into the library and try to figure out what Professor Inga was supposed to be teaching us. I donít suppose youíre interested in accompanying me there, are you?

"My, my, youíre quite the ambitious one! Well, come along then.

"Ooo! Itís a little nippy out, isnít it?

"By the way, did you once see a heater or a heating vent in that building?

"Well thatís because there arenít any heaters in it. The president of this university likes having these halls located in Hell because of the free heating. Itís amazing that cheapskate would sell his soul to the Devil for something like that!

"Okay, the library is just over there.

"No, donít say that about our library! I know it looks pretty Öpolluted on the outside, but on the inside, itís filled with a world-renown collection of books! The only problem is that they all are half-eaten by worms. But, nobody comes to the library to read its books anyway. Why would I read a book when I have a perfectly good television?

"You know, I really love that television set. One day it stopped working and I decided to try fixing it. So I fiddled around with it for a while and, thank goodness, it started working again. An hour later, while I was watching the fixed television, I realized that I did something funny to it because the curtains caught fire. I was thankfully able to extinguish it with my roommateís keg of alcoholic sustenance (I came the closest Iíve ever been to death that evening.) But itís all okay now because I let him use the TV as a microwave oven sometimes.

"Okay, hereís the entrance to the library.

"Be careful! Watch your head.

"Öand that missing floorboard.

"Öand that landmine.

"Öand that librarian.

"Okay, now all we have to do is find a table that hasnít been completely consumed by termites.

"Oh thereís one!

"What?! Whatís wrong? Why are you screaming?

"Oh my, that did look an awful lot like a rat, didnít it? Donít worry about the rats, though! Despite the stereotype, these ones arenít diseased. So when one bites you, you probably wonít catch anything. In fact, theyíre rather well-kept; you see, theyíre the graderís pets. Iím still wondering what they feed them. Itíd probably me if I get another perfect grade on an assignment.

"Okay, I should start reading this textbook. I think she was supposed to cover book three, unit three, chapter three, section three, subsection three, part c, subpart c today. Iím not exactly sure of its location in this book.

"Oh yes! There it is after book nine, unit twelve, chapter one and a half, section eight, subsection four, part n, subpart q! Would you mind if I just sat here and read it? If you donít want to watch me read, youíre more than welcome to browse the library while Iím working if you wish.

"All right, see you later!

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! NO NO NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!" the college student yells as you walk away. Like a normal human being (right?), you come running to see whatís the matter.

"Oh donít worry about me!" the college student says reassuringly. "Iím all right!

"UmmÖ Maybe you should come and have a look at what they printed in this textbook though. Maybe youíll understand why Iím always screaming so loud. Heh, heh, when you think about it, this textbook is really quite humorous!" He shows you the book and it reads:

"The immense applicability of the definite integral produces numerous quantities of geometric and physical varrieties that can unquestonably approxima[te the Rie;mann sums. Such approximatins leadto integral forumlas for the conmputation of such integral quAntities. For instance, letís asume that f(x) is positive-oriented on [a,b] and our objectiver is to find g(x) on [b,c]. Let DAi denote the area of the vertical "strip" th]at lies over the ith subinterval [xi-1, x]. Simply determine the derivative of the first equationÖ Oh Geez! I donít know what Iím doing. I don't want to be a calculus textbook wirter. What I really want to be is a taxicab djriver. Taxi cabdriverís have the goofd life, donít they? They get to drive around a large city all d\ay, nothing to worryabout, living a carefree life. My dream since childhoood was to be a taxci cab rdiver, but then I lost abet and had to look \at the sun for an hour straight. Unlike what is pridicted by skientific reports, I went blind. So now Ií,m stuck here in this basemetn writing cheap t[extbooks for college studnets. Oh I wish life coud be fidderent, because right now it suzcks. By theway, donít bother trying to sell this book back to the bookstoer this spring. Iím comingout with a new editio;n next year which will be without the following gtypo: Jimmy CarterpÖ For geometric or physical reason, for example, thath is Reimann sum must approach the absolute wuatitiy as n = •, then Eq. (9) justifies our setting up the integral formulsÖ"

"Pathetic isnít it?" the college student asks. "The calculus professors actually donít want us to learn anything out of the textbooks, so they give us one that has more of a language barrier than themselves. That way, we have to go to lecture and theyíre not out of the job. Actually, I heard calculus is a fairly easy course. If it wasnít for this lousy conspiracy

"Actually all this stress has really struck a nerve on me ever since I started taking calculus!

"The world just seems to have suddenly turned against me! I meanÖ this cockeyed, STUPID university is the CHEAPEST thing in the world!Ö I mean, they import calculus professors from foreign countriesÖ and of course nobody can understand what those meatballs are sayingÖ Then they give us these just Öterrible scores on our homework, even though I spend FIVE FREAKING HOURS ON IT EVERY WEEK... and then they give us this STUPID TEXTBOOK written by someone fromÖ OUTER SPACE. I mean this is crazy!! This doodiehead class is about to give me a FREAKING NERVOUS BREAKDOWN!! GRRRRRRRRRR!!! But I havenít gone crazy yet! No, siree! I still have my wits about me! CALCULUS HASNíT BEATEN ME YET!! Hahahahahahahahaaaaaah! KISS MY TUSH, CALCULUS YOUíRE NOT TAKING ME DOW--

"What did you say?

"You have to go so soon?

"Donít you want to hang around a little in my room once Iím fini--

"Very well, it must be something very important, then, so I wonít keep you here. Where did you say you are from?

"My gosh! Good luck getting back. Would you like me to drive you to the airport? I have a really great car--

"Are you sure?

"Well, good bye, then and good luck!

"Thanks! Iíll be needing it!"

THE END

"Oh wait!

"If youíre looking for a smashing college then I highly recommend this one! It has great facilities, internationally renown instructors, reasonable courses, a really fancy library--

"Where are you going? Iím not finished yet!

"We also have really great food! Why just yesterday, we had authentic Oriental cuisine! They served us REAL dog!!

"No, I didnít mean that!!! They were hot dogs!!!! Yes!!!!! Oriental hot dogs!!!! They were not dogs, that would be silly, HEY DONíT LEAVE!!!!!

"HEY!!!!! DONíT YOU WANT TO GO TO MY CHEMISTRY CLASS?!!!!!!!!!"

Michael Lawrence is whom whatever copyrighted this short story. And that bloody photo.