Olaf Magnusson stood in the Lecture Hall Aula Magna, accepting his Nobel Prize for physics when, by mere accident, he realized his pants zipper was open.
The terror of the moment was lessened by the relief that he was well hidden behind the podium. As long as his speech lasted, he was able to conceal his wardrobe malfunction.
Suddenly, terror. What would he do after his speech? There would be pictures. Many pictures. He’d have to pose with members of the Nobel Committee. Media from around the world would capture him with his fly open. A thousand thoughts raced through his head.
Then only one. How was his speech going? Was he making any sense?
For the next few seconds he focused on his audience. Everyone still seemed engaged. He was performing his mental multitasking efficiently. He flipped back to the issue at hand. How could he zip his pants without arousing suspicion?
In the back corner of the room an attendant emerged from an anteroom. He needed a distraction. An idea struck.
Olaf pointed to the attendant. “That man has a bomb! It’s a terrorist attack!” he shouted. The attendant froze wide eyed. Four men jumped on him.
In the melee that ensued, Olaf yanked the zipper on his pants. It wouldn’t budge. His eyes flashed down. The zipper was snagged in his shirt. A portion of his shirt tail stuck out. Olaf grimaced.
He remembered the screaming, stampeding crowd.
“Sorry, ladies and gentlemen. My mistake. Please, excuse me. Pardon my irregular illustration,” said Olaf. The crowd slowly composed themselves. The four men released the attendant, his dignity rudely compromised. “It’s statistically understood that a situation where the fight/flight response is triggered, a significantly larger proportion of society will choose flight over fight. That reflects the ratio in nature between predator and prey. There must always be a larger number of prey than predator. That ratio can elegantly demonstrated by fractals.”
Olaf had no proof of any of this, but it seemed reasonable enough. It was also the best excuse he could come ups with for causing the chaos.
Chuckles of laughter smattered through the group that remained. “Who says physics isn’t fun?” said Olaf. The crowd began to applaud. Olaf thanked the crowd, buttoned his coat to hide his shame and walked briskly off stage.
“Mr. Magnusson, that was wonderful,” said a member of the Nobel committee. “It’s now time for pictures.”
“May I go to the men’s room first?” asked Olaf.
Olaf slapped his head and burst into the men’s room. Why didn’t I think of that before, he thought.