Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Trees and Turds

Luigi had just arrived from Italy, full of excitement and hope. He’d studied English a bit before leaving, but knew he needed a lot more work on it, especially to lessen his thick accent. So when his first job applications were turned down, he realized his fears were correct, especially after the last owner mentioned that his accent would interfere with customer interaction because they wouldn’t be able to understand him.

Walking home, he spotted a help wanted sign in the window of a small ma-and-pa grocery store and went in. The shop owner welcomed him as he entered and assured him his accent was no problem -- for it was only a menial job, stocking shelves and sweeping up. But it would pay Luigi’s bills and allow him more time to hone his English skills. “But,’ the owner continued, “I’ll have to give you a brief intelligence test to make sure you’re smart enough to do the job correctly, because everything has to be on the proper shelf and well-organized.”

“That’s-a fine,” Luigi said, smiling broadly, but hopeful he wouldn't blow this opportunity to earn some money.

“Okay. First question -- draw a representation of the number nine,” and he handed Luigi a piece of paper and a box of crayons.

Luigi took them, looked up at the ceiling for 30 seconds as he thought, and then removed the dark brown and light green crayons, drew three large trees, and handed the paper bak to the owner.

Shaking his head, the owner said, “I’m afraid I don’t understand, Luigi.”

Luigi pointed at the picture and said, “It’s-a simple. Dere’s a tree, and dere’s a tree, and dere’s anotha tree, and tree-trees, dat a-make-a nine!”

Smiling and nodding, the owner said, “I understand! Very good. Now question number two: Draw a representation of the number ninety-nine.”

Luigi took the paper back, closed his eyes, arched his head to the ceiling and thought and thought and thought. Then his eyes popped open, eyes bright with an idea, and he removed the light brown crayon and scribbled over all the trees he had drawn, and handed the paper back to the owner.

“The owner studied the scribbled-over trees and with a confused look, exclaimed, “I'm sorry, Luigi, but I don’t get it.”

Luigi smiled and said, “Now ya got-a dirty tree, anotha dirty tree, and anotha dirty three, and three dirty-trees a-make-a ninety-a-nine!”

“I see!” said the owner. “Very good job! Now the final question -- draw a representation of the number one hundred.”

Luigi’s face fell, scrunched up in disappointment. He stared at the floor and thought and thought and thought. A full two minutes passed and then his face bobbed up, smiling, his face radiant with an idea. He took out the black crayon, drew a small pile alongside each tree, and then drew a black stick-figure dog. Smiling broadly, he handed the paper back to the owner.

The shop owner studied the drawing, now even more perplexed than before, shook his head, and said, “I’m afraid I don’t understand again, Luigi. I don't see how this answers the question.”

“Sure it does. The litta doggie a-visit all da trees and leave a mess by eacha one. Now the picture got a dirty tree an a turd, anotha dirty tree and a turd, and anotha dirty tree and a turd - and datta make-a one-a-hundred!”

And a joyous Luigi got the job!

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