|Ronald Barr is a statistician with a knack for identifying hidden variables. For example, it was he who recognized that by offering chicken soup and hot chocolate in the automatic coffee machine, his company could cut petty theft of office supplies by 32 percent statewide. Nevertheless, he somehow loses his job. While working at the auto repair shop owned by his wife's uncle, he becomes obsessed with figuring out why his wife is staying out late at night. Finally he realizes...it is correlated with the number of spark plugs sold at the shop! So, he sets out to resolve the problem (by sending back all of the spark plugs, of course). |
I think the comments about this story showing math to be cold, meaningless, etc are very off base. If anything, this beautifully written short story demonstrates how math is integral to everything in life, including which blade of grass is hit by a random pebble.
It is Ronald Barr who is lost and it is his fatal flaw that keeps him from being saved by the even the rationality of mathematics.
I can see your point, V Wlng. Certainly, the story does show that mathematics is useful. However, it also portrays Ronald as being "cold" (he cannot understand his wife on a human/emotional level, but only can try to predict her behavior through equations) and the other characters appear to find Ronald unlikeable ("dry") and distasteful despite his usefulness. And, as useful as math is in finding helpful correlations at work, it seems to destroy both his career and his marriage. As a result, I still think that this story should have this categorization so that someone attempting to find works of fiction in which a character's mathematical ability is associated with emotional coldness or ultimate failure can locate Ronald Barr as a good example.