Recently, I told an interesting story about a professor and an illness. Speaking to a friend earlier today, I recalled two more stories about the statistics professor I'll call "Lynne."
Once, Lynne was trying to explain to the class the difference between "theoretical zero" and "absolute zero." Theoretical zero, she explained, is like "a black dairy farmer in Iowa." Absolute zero is like "a man with ovarian cancer." I hadn't thought of this explanation in over 10 years... until today. Wow, she was a genius.
Another time, I was working for her as a T.A. One of the students in the class had impaired vision and had asked me that his tests be printed in a larger font. When I told her this, she got out her little green grade book with the intention of noting this fact next to the student's name. She was trying to think of what to write next to his name. "Blind" would have been an overstatement. So she thought for a while and said "let's just call him 'special.'"
When it came time for the first test in this class, she printed the "special" student's test in 12-point font, while the rest of the class got 10-point. In other words, it wasn't much bigger. She also placed the special test in a special envelope. Anyway, the student took the test and he asked if it could be a little bigger next time. Lynne proceeded to print the next test in a ridiculously, offensively large 36-point font. I don't really have an ending for this story. I think we eventually settled on 18-point for the final exam. The point is... when you think of this incident and the strep throat story, Lynne was what you would call "insensitive."