Office hours

As so often, I’m headed to office hours to get help with my B521 homework. When I show up, the room is packed; there’s my professor, his two assistants, and two other students presumably looking for help.   “Lindsey! Come in; sit down. Would you like a piece of pizza?”

Score. I go inside and wedge myself into the one available chair. The chair next to me is occupied by a fresh, hot cheese pizza, which looks delicious, but I figure I’d better try and get my homework taken care of first. I pop open my laptop and peer at my half-written, half-working code, which is done up in white and green on an attractive blue background. The credit for those pretty colors is due, of course, to my programmable text editor — and to the wizards, now sitting across from me, who have patiently helped me customize it to the point where it now handles just about every programming-related task for me.  Except think.  And convert carbohydrates to ATP.  Speaking of which.

“Aren’t you going to have some pizza?” Well, I — well — all right, don’t mind if I do. I grab a slice and carefully maneuver it toward myself, trying to keep my laptop steady on my knees as I do so.

“You really shouldn’t eat over your computer,” I am admonished. Okay, homework can wait. I set the pizza down, fold up my laptop again, set it on the floor, reorient myself in the chair, pick up my slice of pizza, and am one nanosecond away from taking a big, satisfying bite.

“So! What’s your question?” Suddenly, everyone’s all attentive.

“Um…” I reach for my computer again.

“No, no! What are you doing?!” They actually back away.

This goes on for a few more rounds, until I finally realize what’s going on. They don’t want to look at my code. They don’t even want me to look at my code. What they want me to do is ask questions about it — as many as I want — but if I’m going to come to office hours, I had damn well better know exactly what I want to ask.

And, sure enough, once I’ve figured out how to formulate my question in English, it turns out that the answer is obvious. As I explain the problem, they just raise their eyebrows and nod, until — oh. Right. In fact, the solution was right in front of me the whole time. As so often.

But next week, I’ll be back.  Especially if there’s a free seat next to the pizza.

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