Once upon a time there was a grey stuffed bear named Simon who wanted, more than anything, to have friends. But, the other toys rejected him because he was ignorant of the basics of analytic geometry. They would laugh at him and push him around and once they even managed to drop him into the washing machine. They were particularly nasty one day when Simon was sitting on a curb wondering if he’d ever get a friend.
“Hey, look everybody! It’s Simon”, said the electric rabbit, “Still making shapes in two dimensions, moron?”
“Dude’s strictly from Flatland”, added the rocking horse.
The stuffed turtle took Simon by the lapels, “I’d let you hang out with us but you can’t even understand spherical coordinates”, he put an arm around Raggedy Ann, a doll Simon was in love with despite her obvious poverty, “Let’s go guys… TO THE MATHEMATICS LECTURE HALL!”
Simon ran to his room with tears in his eyes. When his father came in an hour later he found Simon wrapping barbwire around the end of a baseball bat. “Don’t put all the barbwire at the top”, said his father, “Sometimes you want to use it for more of a sawing and tearing effect. Who you gonna kill, son?”
“The other toys are laughing at me”, Simon said, sullenly. He put the bat down and looked up at his father, “They think its funny that I don’t know analytic geometry”
Simon’s father took the bat gently and put it into a corner, “Let’s call the bat ‘Plan B’. Why don’t I teach you analytic geometry and then your friends will have no reason to hate you?”
“YOU know analytic geometry?”
“I’m a mathematician, son”
“But, you work as a computer programmer”
Simon’s father cleared his throat, “Ahem, yes… it is degrading work for a mathematician; but, I do it to give your mother and you the life you deserve”
“But, mom’s run away, years ago”
“SHE’S COMING BACK!”, exclaimed his father. He got control of himself and repeated, “She’s coming back”
“Could you teach me analytic geometry?”
“I can. One hour a day and in a month, you’ll know more than they do”
So, the two worked for an hour a day on cylindrical coordinate systems and ellipses and hyperbolic functions and in a month Simon had learned every theorem and equation in the book. He went off to find the other toys. They were hanging around the backyard throwing twigs at the dog.
“Hey morons”, shouted Simon, “I know all about analytic geometry. Go ahead, ask me anything”
The stuffed turtle looked at him blandly, “Who cares?”
The electric rabbit said, “Yeah, I’m bored. Hey, I just got a motorcycle. Who wants to go to the graveyard and knock over tombstones?”. All the toys raised their hands. Simon started to but the rocking horse said, “Not YOU”
Simon started to feel tears welling in his eyes. “What cemetery are you going to?”
The electric rabbit said, “Not that it’s your business but we are vandalizing Green Hills Cemetery. Now, go away!”
Simon ran all the way home. When he got there, his father asked him how it went. Simon shrugged, “It’s a lost cause, I think, dad”
His father patted him on the back gently, then turned back to his degrading work as a computer programmer. “I hope you at least learned something”, he said over his shoulder.
“I did”, answered Simon, a little more cheerfully.
Simon went into his room and found his barbwire-wrapped bat. He gave it a few swings and visualized what was about to happen and smiled.
“Thank God for Plan B”…
Moral: Learning analytic geometry might be satisfying but it won’t change your life in any real way.