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Engineer humor: no laughing matter

I like working with engineers — it’s that refreshing lack of nuance — but I don’t think I’d want to own one. In private life, Weasel is all about the gray areas.

I made a smartass remark in a meeting once about a ball valve (it had a drainage cock!) and was rewarded with a solemn exposition on the inner workings of valves. I thought the non-engineer across from me was going to ‘splode trying to hold it in.

It’s not that engineers have no sense of humor, but their humor has a certain… literalness about it. I used to joke that engineers are the reason we have to print “This Page Intentionally Left Blank” on the blank pages, or they’d be calling me up and complaining. Until the day an engineer said, “oh, engineers think that’s funny, too. Because once you print ‘This Page Intentionally Left Blank’ on it, it’s no longer blank.

See? Engineer humor.

A very senior engineer once told me engineers are the way they are because they spend five years learning how to do the calculations, at the end of which they are given a book with all the answers in. Fucking furious. You would be, too.

I was copying files to a CD in front of an engineer once, and he looked at this animated dialog box


and said, “I love to watch this. No matter how many files it copies, that piece of paper never misses the folder.”

I think he was kidding.


Comment from mesablue
Time: March 5, 2007, 12:43 pm

Oh jeez, I just noticed your page three weasel. Funny.

In the Metro Detroit area we have our own share of engineers — many now unemployed, because of the auto industry.

If you head out to the bar here, you will run into small packs of engineers. It is best to avoid them, unless you enjoy extremely long and drawn out BORING conversations. That said, they have interesting hobbies. One friend is an expert firework maker guy. He’s fun to hang around with all summer. Another makes great beer. To say he is fanatical about beer is a huge understatement.

Anyway, I work in the legal field and I’m not a lawyer. Lawyers are an entire species unto themselves. Too many bizarre types to classify. Though, it would be an interesting project.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: March 5, 2007, 3:54 pm

We engineers are deeply and thoroughly trained (insert scientist’s snicker here) to deal with objective reality – which, arguably, permits no contradictions. Any contradiction of O.R. quite properly startles us and makes us wary. Wariness is an instinctive defense mechanism. An interrupted defense mechanism is often called the basis of humour.

No wonder the non-blank page amuses us. And the never-missing paper fling. They are direct contradictions of O.R.
Humour at its most basic.

Not that we cannot appreciate more subtle, nuanced forms of the art. But – in our opinion – why unnecessarily complicate the already sublime?

Comment from Alissa
Time: March 5, 2007, 7:57 pm

I’m glad you stuck with O.R. and didn’t give Gracie a giant rack.

Comment from Duncan_ID
Time: March 7, 2007, 12:54 am

This engineers response to that:

“I hate watching this damn thing. It’s copying blank pages!”

Comment from Duncan_ID
Time: March 7, 2007, 12:57 am

Am I kidding?


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