King Banaian missed his bagel klatch this morning, and he's clearly miffed. He drove his eighth-grade daughter to school, and then he had to drive back home for something she forgot:
This morning Littlest Scholar heads out the door to the car, checks the back seat to see that her football is in tow, and upon arriving to school tells me her diorama she had made last night had been forgotten at home. It must be brought now. Because of road and bridge construction, it takes me forty minutes to go home, retrieve the diorama and bring it to school.
This caused me to miss my normal bagel-and-coffee with friends. Should I charge her for this?
Of course you should, King! Children should be raised in as close to Skinner box conditions as possible. Spot is sure you have a pretty comprehensive scheme of carrots and sticks for raising your daughter anyway, King; Spot is surprised that you have to ask the question. It is apparent, however, that the professor's pique was compounded later in the morning when he got this message from his daughter's teacher:
Would you please be able to get (her) to school a few minutes earlier in the morning? We start our day at 7:40, and that has been when she has walked in the door the last few days. Maybe about 7:35 or so. Thanks very much.
What cheek! Imagine, a mere teacher asking his majesty the King to bring his daughter to school on time. Obviously, this was an affront to economics professors everywhere. So the King did what an economics professor would do: turn the fact that he can't get his arse out of the rack in order to get his daughter to school on time into a economics problem:
I'm a bit tempted to be flip with the teacher (who, btw, sent this at 7:45, so whatever was being done right at 7:40 didn't require his [Katie look: a male teacher] full attention.) After all, the bridge construction has changed traffic flows three times in the last four weeks, and predicting the time to leave the house to have her arrive at 7:35 is an estimate with much greater uncertainty now than in time passed [sic]. So I decided to reflect a little economics on the problem.
The teacher is undoubtedly lucky that Banaian managed to tamp it down! What follows is Banaian's description of the incentives that bear on his getting his daughter to school early (apparently bad, if too early), late (also bad, which seems to mystify, or at least disquiet, the King), or just right: a few minutes before the opening bell. One of the disincentives to be timely is this:
Indeed, since the school sends me a note equally for bring the child early or late, the credit I get for a 7:25 arrival is zero. Maybe something closer to 7:32 might bring a smile, hardly enough payment for forgoing that last article in the sports pages with my breakfast.
It's a mind bender to the King that the teacher would be so tedious about wanting students to be punctual.
Professor, if you're having breakfast, you don't need that bagel a little later, anyway.
Boys and girls, the professor has given us a splendid example of the difference between a responsible adult and one who has to be bribed to do anything.