Chapter no 3

The Rosie Project (Don Tillman, #1)

After speaking with Julie, I went immediately to Gene’s oce in the psychology building, but he was not there. Fortunately his personal assistant, e Beautiful Helena, who should be called e Obstructive Helena, was not there either and I was able to access Gene’s diary. I discovered that he was giving a public lecture, due to finish at 5:00 p.m., with a gap before a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Perfect. I would merely have to reduce the length of my scheduled gym session. I booked the vacant slot.

After an accelerated workout at the gym, achieved by deleting the shower and change tasks, I jogged to the lecture theater, where I waited outside the staff entrance. Although I was perspiring heavily from the heat and exercise, I was energized, both physically and mentally. As soon as my watch showed 5:00 p.m., I walked in. Gene was at the lectern of the darkened theater, still talking, apparently oblivious to time, responding to a question about funding. My entrance had allowed a shaft of light into the room, and I realized that the audience’s eyes were now on me, as if expecting me to say something.

“Time’s up,” I said. “I have a meeting with Gene.”

People immediately started getting up, and I observed the Dean in the front row with three people in corporate costumes. I guessed that they were there as potential providers of finance and not because of an intellectual interest in primate sexual attraction. Gene is always trying to solicit money for research, and the Dean is constantly threatening to downsize the Genetics and Psychology Departments because of insucient funding. It is not an area I involve myself in.

Gene spoke over the chatter. “I think my colleague Professor Tillman has given us a signal that we should discuss the finances, critical as they are to

our ongoing work, at another time.” He looked toward the Dean and her companions. “ank you again for your interest in my work—and of course that of my colleagues in the Department of Psychology.” ere was applause. It seemed that my intervention had been timely.

e Dean and her corporate friends swept past me. She said, just to me, “Sorry to hold up your meeting, Professor Tillman. I’m sure we can find the money elsewhere.” is was good to hear, but now, annoyingly, there was a throng around Gene. A woman with red hair and several metal objects in her ears was talking to him. She was speaking quite loudly.

“I can’t believe you used a public lecture to push your own agenda.” “Lucky you came, then. You’ve changed one of your beliefs. at’d be a


It was obvious that there was some animosity on the woman’s part, even though Gene was smiling.

“Even if you were right, which you’re not, what about the social impact?” I was amazed by Gene’s next reply, not by its intent, which I am familiar with, but by its subtle shift in topic. Gene has social skills at a level that I

will never have.

is is sounding like a café discussion. Why don’t we pick it up over coee sometime?”

“Sorry,” she said. “I’ve got research to do. You know, evidence.”

I moved to push in, but a tall, blond woman was ahead of me, and I did not want to risk body contact. She spoke with a Norwegian accent.

“Professor Barrow?” she said, meaning Gene. “With respect, I think you are oversimplifying the feminist position.”

“If we’re going to talk philosophy, we should do it in a coee shop,” Gene replied. “I’ll catch you at Barista’s in five.”

e woman nodded and walked toward the door. Finally, we had time to talk.

“What’s her accent?” Gene asked me. “Swedish?” “Norwegian,” I said. “I thought you had a Norwegian already.”

I told him that we had a discussion scheduled, but Gene was now focused on having coee with the woman. Most male animals are programmed to give higher priority to sex than to assisting an unrelated individual, and Gene had the additional motivation of his research project. Arguing would be hopeless.

“Book the next slot in my diary,” he said.

e Beautiful Helena had presumably departed for the day, and I was again able to access Gene’s diary. I amended my own schedule to accommodate the appointment. From now on, the Wife Project would have maximum priority.

I waited until exactly 7:30 a.m. the next day before knocking on Gene and Claudia’s door. It had been necessary to shift my jog to the market for dinner purchases back to 5:45 a.m., which in turn had meant going to bed earlier the previous night, with a flow-on eect to a number of scheduled tasks.

I heard sounds of surprise through the door before their daughter Eugenie opened it. Eugenie was, as always, pleased to see me, and requested that I hoist her onto my shoulders and jump all the way to the kitchen. It was great fun. It occurred to me that I might be able to include Eugenie and her half brother Carl as my friends, making a total of four.

Gene and Claudia were eating breakfast and told me that they had not been expecting me. I advised Gene to put his diary online: he could remain up-to-date and I would avoid unpleasant encounters with e Beautiful Helena. He was not enthusiastic.

I had missed breakfast, so I took a tub of yogurt from the refrigerator. Sweetened! No wonder Gene is overweight. Claudia is not yet overweight, but I had noticed some increase. I pointed out the problem and identified the yogurt as the possible culprit.

Claudia asked whether I had enjoyed the Asperger’s lecture. She was under the impression that Gene had delivered the lecture and I had merely attended. I corrected her mistake and told her I had found the subject fascinating.

“Did the symptoms remind you of anyone?” she asked.

ey certainly did. ey were an almost perfect description of Laszlo Hevesi in the Physics Department. I was about to relate the famous story of Laszlo and the pajamas when Gene’s son, Carl, who is sixteen, arrived in his school uniform. He walked toward the refrigerator, as if to open it, then suddenly spun around and threw a full-blooded punch at my head. I caught the punch and pushed him gently but firmly to the floor, so he could see that I was achieving the result with leverage rather than strength. is is a game we always play, but he had not noticed the yogurt, which was now on our clothes.

“Stay still,” said Claudia. “I’ll get a cloth.”

A cloth was not going to clean my shirt properly. Laundering a shirt requires a machine, detergent, fabric softener, and considerable time.

“I’ll borrow one of Gene’s,” I said, and headed to their bedroom.

When I returned, wearing an uncomfortably large white shirt with a decorative frill in the front, I tried to introduce the Wife Project, but Claudia was engaged in child-related activities. is was becoming frustrating. I booked dinner for Saturday night and asked them not to schedule any other conversation topics.

e delay was actually opportune, as it enabled me to undertake some research on questionnaire design, draw up a list of desirable attributes, and produce a draft pro forma survey. All this, of course, had to be arranged around my teaching and research commitments and an appointment with the Dean.

On Friday morning we had yet another unpleasant interaction as a result of my reporting an honors-year student for academic dishonesty. I had already caught Kevin Yu cheating once. en, marking his most recent assignment, I had recognized a sentence from another student’s work of three years earlier.

Some investigation established that the past student was now Kevin’s private tutor and had written at least part of his essay for him. is had all happened some weeks ago. I had reported the matter and expected the disciplinary process to take its course. Apparently it was more complicated than this.

e situation with Kevin is a little awkward,” said the Dean. We were in her corporate-style oce and she was wearing her corporate-style costume of matching dark-blue skirt and jacket, which, according to Gene, is intended to make her appear more powerful. She is a short, slim person, aged approximately fifty, and it is possible that the costume makes her appear bigger, but I cannot see the relevance of physical dominance in an academic environment.

is is Kevin’s third oense, and university policy requires that he be expelled,” she said.

e facts seemed to be clear and the necessary action straightforward. I tried to identify the awkwardness that the Dean referred to. “Is the evidence insucient? Is he making a legal challenge?”

“No, that’s all perfectly clear. But the first oense was very naive. He cut and pasted from the Internet and the copying was picked up by the

plagiarism software. He was in his first year and his English wasn’t very good. And there are cultural dierences.”

I had not known about this first oense.

e second time, you reported him because he’d borrowed from an obscure paper that you were somehow familiar with.”


“Don, none of the other lecturers are as . . . vigilant as you.”

It was unusual for the Dean to compliment me on my wide reading and dedication.

ese kids pay a lot of money to study here. We rely on their fees. We don’t want them stealing blatantly from the Internet. But we have to recognize that they need assistance, and . . . Kevin has only a semester to go. We can’t send him home after three and a half years without a qualification. It doesn’t look good.”

“What if he was a medical student? What if you went to the hospital and the doctors who operated on you had cheated on their exams?”

“Kevin’s not a medical student. And he didn’t cheat on his exams, he just got some help with an assignment.”

It seemed that the Dean had been flattering me only in order to procure unethical behavior. But the solution to her dilemma was obvious. If she did not want to break the rules, then she should change the rules. I pointed this out.

I am not good at interpreting expressions and was not familiar with the one that appeared on the Dean’s face. “We can’t be seen to allow cheating.”

“Even though we do?”

e meeting left me confused and angry. ere were serious matters at stake. What if our research was not accepted because we had a reputation for low academic standards? People could die while cures for diseases were delayed. What if a genetics laboratory hired a person whose qualification had been achieved through cheating, and that person made major errors?

e Dean seemed more concerned with perceptions than with these crucial matters.

I reflected on what it would be like to spend my life living with the Dean. It was a truly terrible thought. e underlying problem was the preoccupation with image. My questionnaire would be ruthless in filtering out women who were concerned with appearance.

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