Friday, March 7, 2008

Safety in Numbers

This morning, on the way into the building where I work, I glanced up at the black tags above each door of the two-door entrance. I've worked here for, hmmm... 16 years now. Let's see... 16 years times, let's say, 47 work weeks a year (gotta love working for the U--five weeks of vacation a year!) would be 752 work weeks, times 5 days a week gives 3,760 work days, minus a fudge factor of, oh, 160 sick days would be 3,600 days worked, times 2 for walking through the entrance twice a day, would be a grand total of 7,200 times I've walked through those doors.

And that's while I've worked here. I also took several courses here while working on my computer science degree, so, let's add another, hmmm... say, 5 years times 2 terms a year times 3 months a term times 4 weeks a month times, say, 3 class days a week would be... 360 more times, as a student. So, a grand total of about 7,560 times I've passed through those doors. Rounding down, let's say, 7,500 times.

So, about 7,500 times I've walked through those doors, and every once in awhile, I happen to glance up at the black tags with white characters, above the doors: "Ent 2" and "Ent 3." Today, as I read these plates, a number of questions arose in my mind. Where is Ent 1? How many Ents are there in the building? And, most importantly, why on earth would anyone number the doors to a building? And, why number each door of a double-door entrance?

Granted, I work in the building that houses the departments of mathematics and computer science. Numbers are our business, and enumeration of any kind is probably good for business. In fact, maybe mathematicians and statisticians and computer scientists should think about some kind of marketing scheme, urging people to enumerate more things. Maybe we should be trying to get people to put little black tags with white characters above the doors of their homes. And windows--that's a completely unexplored, undeveloped market for enumeration. Windows--that's the future!

But I doubt that the doors were numbered at the request of the people who teach numbers here on campus. If the mathematicians here cared at all about the entrances, they'd be trying to do weird topological transformations of them. The computer science profs would be researching an algorithm to provide congestion control and prevent deadlocks at the doorways. Simply numbering the doors, that's a bit low-brow--except, maybe, for the people in the remedial math lab.

No, there must be some bureaucratic reason for those little Ent tags. Something like inventory, or public safety, or some such thing. Homeland security. "The terrorists have egressed the building via Ent 3! Not Ent 2! Ent 3!" Yes, that must be it. Somewhere on campus, there must be a Director of Entrance Numerology, I'd guess, with a big staff--there are lots of doors on campus! There must be a large entrance database. People probably have to have years of training and have to pass several licensure and certification examinations before they can be entrusted with the huge responsibility of enumerating doors. I hope so, anyway.

The thought of some highly educated and well-trained Director of Entrance Numerology managing a large staff of door enumerators gives me great comfort. I will sleep better tonight, knowing that all doors have been tagged, numbered, and recorded in some great doorway database here on campus. And if, after all, I can't sleep, I can always try counting doors.

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