I edited a humor magazine in college. We were a knuckleheaded bunch. In our third-story office, some writer had vandalized our life-sized cutout of David Ortiz, so the Red Sox jersey now read “Bread Sux.” Others had scribbled below, “Yeah man! Down with bread!”
But our office needed a couch. So one day, when a sofa appeared on the street, five of us gathered to carry it up the narrow stairway to the office.
Not being idiots, we took measurements of the couch first. “It won’t fit,” Simon concluded. “The couch is 34” by 38” by 76”. The doorway is 30” by 78”. There’s no way to make that work – the couch is short enough, but too wide.”
“What do numbers even mean, anyway?” said David. “I say we try it.”
So, being idiots, we did. Five pasty goof-offs, I among them, heaved the couch all the way up the stairs. “We’re starting a moving service,” Adam explained to a poor girl trying to squeeze past us. “So far we’ve just done small stuff, like pencils and goldfish crackers. This is our first couch! Give us a high-five!” She complied, her eyes showing pity and a bit of fear.
Finally we arrived, sweating and panting, on the landing outside the office.
“Now what, David?” Judd asked.
We realized with a sinking feeling that we’d exerted all that effort in blind trust of David, who reminded me a little of Kramer from Seinfeld. I was reminded of the ancient saying: Never, ever trust a humor writer.
“Oh, gosh,” David said, looking around at us. “Did you do all this on my account?”
“Well, I suppose we might as well try it,” David said, looking at the door. We positioned the couch vertically in the doorway.
“See?” I said. “It won’t fit.”
“Oh,” David said, “oh dear.” Then he twisted the couch, and like magic, it slid through the door and into the office.
“Whoa!” we cried. “David! How did you know that would happen?”
David paused thoughtfully, donning some nearby Groucho Marx glasses. “This right here, boys,” he said, “is why you never rely on a two-dimensional model to solve a three-dimensional problem.”
We’d pictured the door as a flat plane, which is fair enough. But then we’d tried to reduce the couch to a flat plane as well, and that was our mistake. We hadn’t allowed for the possibility of rotating it. But David – a Physics major who, it turns out, was doing independent research on 3D modeling – had.
It remains the only time in my life that someone told me the moral of the story immediately after the event. The couch is still there. David has long since graduated, and when the time comes to get the couch out, I’m not sure anyone will know how.
Note: As usual, imagination has plugged the holes in memory – though David is every bit as mysterious and adorable as described. More so, really.
Anyone have other stories of 2D models proving inadequate for 3D problems?
9 thoughts on “The Humor Writers and the Too-Big Sofa”
Adam, commenting on Facebook, adds:
“The 3D analysis proved conclusively that the couch still couldn’t physically fit even with rotations, but we really needed the couch in there. So we switched to a non-Euclidean modeling method called “unfaltering willpower” which gave us the flexibility and ignorance essential to completing the task.
Side note: a similarly sized couch was known to exist in 17th century Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth; to complete the impossible task of moving it to his own office in Kensington, Isaac Newton invented the Calculus.”
Just wait till the door appears in the wall, ask them to open it, and you’re done. Douglas Adams solved this!
Mmm, clearly we should’ve read our Hitchhiker’s Guides more closely.
Or you might want to just skim through Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, where the story comes up.
Crossing the bridge when you get to it- at that point ingenuity is multiplied several fold, because you just dare not fail.
Well said. And dare not let the couch fall back down the stairs, either.
I’m surprised you were able to recreate dialogue that sounds so perfectly like Adam and David.
Pretty easy. David: “Oh, oh ____,” followed by facetiousness.
Adam: harder to fake… I’m pretty sure he actually said something like that to a random girl we passed.
Have you heard about the air force cadets who moved a plane into their quad? When it was found, they had to get a crane in to get it out, because the wingspan was larger than the gap between buildings. Then the plane wound up in the quad again. They got a crane in again. Then the plane wound up in the quad for a third time. Exasperated, the officers promised no punishment if they got the plane out. So the cadets tilted the plane and walked it out.