Prompt: You come into work one morning and the chalkboard has a note on it that you didn’t write. You assume it’s a coworker friend so, just to amuse yourself, you respond to the note on the board with your own note.
Tim and Nancy are in the photocopier line in the division office, standing behind Frederick Jamison.
“Are you coallating and stapling?” Tim asks as he stares as obviously as possible at the wall clock.
Without turning away from the photocopiers control panel, Frederick says, “I have three class sets to do. You might want to come back later.”
“I have to make copies for a class that’s meeting in ten minutes,” Tim says. “I don’t really have time to wait.”
Nancy has been staring into the space between Tim and Frederick. Without looking at either, she says, thoughtfully, “On my chalkboard this morning, someone left a message for me. It said, ‘There are two times to do something that needs to be done.'”
Tim looks from the wall clock to Nancy. “And?” Tim says.
“That’s all the message said.”
“The message said that there are two times to do something, but it didn’t say what those times are?”
“Nope,” Nancy says.
“Isn’t it obvious?” Frederick asks, turning from the copier to Tim and Nancy.
“It’s not obvious to me,” Tim says.
“The two times the message is suggesting,” Frederick says,” are now and never.”
“That’s what I wrote!” Nancy says. “I wrote ‘now and never’ on the blackboard beneath the first message!”
“That’s not what I would have written,” Tim says. “I would have written, ‘The two times to do a thing are now, and, second, much later than now if a friend has a class in ten minutes and needs the photocopier more than I do.”
Nancy and Frederick look at each other for a moment, as if considering Tim’s chalkboard idea: then, after another moment has passed , with the only sound in the room the shishing of the photocopier, Nancy says, “That would be too long for the place on the blackboard where the messages are.”
“I agree,” Frederick says, though no one has asked. “Conciseness is important in blackboard messages.”
“It is crucial,” Nancy says.