I didn’t have time for lunch and I came to my evening concrete class a few weeks ago on an empty stomach. One of my students, Paul, walked into the classroom with a banana.
I said to Paul, “What is that?”
He said, “Professor Brenner, it’s a banana.”
“Oh,” I said. “Can I see it?”
Paul handed me the banana. I was hungry, so I ate it.
Paul looked on in horror, and his classmates with wild-eyed wonder, as I didn’t just eat the banana. I lectured on the chalkboard with the chalk in one hand and the banana in the other. I wrote some equations for the effective moment of inertia in concrete while munching on the banana. It was a good banana. I shared that information with the class.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but afterwards I had regrets. I had eaten Paul’s banana! What if he was hungry? What if that was his dinner, a nice healthy piece of fruit, and I had taken it, and then he had no food. What if Paul went hungry the rest of the week and was unable to complete his concrete design homework (actually, I think he tried that excuse at one point). So for subsequent classes, I came armed with a banana. In retribution, I offered Paul a banana before each class. For one class, I came with a stack of many bananas. During questions and answers, each time Paul answered a question correctly, I tossed him a banana. In spite of my original offense, Paul ended up doing OK, having been the recipient of many bananas.
We had a great concrete course, but all good things must come to an end. Last week, it was time for the students' final exam. This concluding class was a bit less light-hearted than most (well, because they had to take an exam). At the end of the test, each student walked up to me to deliver their completed final. And in addition to the completed exam papers, they each handed me a banana.
So we complete 2009 and I share with everyone the following wishes: I hope you, your family and friends have a happy and healthy 2010, filled with success and nice bridges. And when the students finish their exam, I hope that they offer you a banana.