Specificity is an engineer’s delight

Once in a while, I have to go into NYC to work out of our offices there. I take the bus in to Port Authority, then take the subway. I take the 7 train from Times Square to Bryant Park, then walk along the corridor to get to the F/V trains to Rockefeller Plaza. Walking the corridor is always a treat because of it’s “human zoo” quality: you get to see all sorts of people in there, some performing various instruments, others pan-handling with little cardboard signs, sometimes they even try to sell what look like shady pirated DVDs. Well, yesterday, I had an encounter that just made me chuckle and smile.

There was a lady standing in the corridor asking people passing her by, “Do you have a quarter?” Well, marveling at this woman’s curiousity, I felt compelled to give her an answer. I stopped, reached into my pocket, pulled out what loose change I had, identified a quarter and held it up with with my other hand and answered, “Yes, I do.” I then proceeded to put it back in my pocket, smiled at the lady and then resumed walking towards the other end of the corridor.

I realize that there was an implied question of “can I have a quarter,” but if you’re not going to ask the question, I don’t see why you’ve earned the quarter. She asked a simple question I felt I could answer, I answered it and went about my business. She got exactly what she asked for.

Specificity is an engineer’s delight. When you can give someone exactly what they asked for, you try to do it. Yesterday was a good day. :-)


  1. See, I could have easily answered “Yes I do!” while walking by and not even stopping, because I know that back at home in the change bin, I do have a quarter.

  2. Ah, but Pete, that would require a total stranger to trust you. In this world, you can’t expect that kind of trust.

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