i got put on a different round on the bus at work today. it was for an expensive private school, so there were all these little posh kids running around, playing their nitendo ds's and being named after italian renaissance painters.
i was walking up and down the aisles checking that seat belts were on, and one kid got really excited and said "alex! alex! do you want to see my magic trick? it's got numbers in it!", so i said okay, and he then asked me to think of a number between one and nine, but it couldn't be ten or zero.
i picked nine and said okay.
"now take you number and add ten to it."
"now add four to that number."
"now add a seven."
"now add one."
"and now take away your original number."
"... is the number you have 22?"
"yes!" i said "very good!" and he looked pleased it had worked.
i then said "now, can you explain to me why it is that works?" and he looked a bit confused and said he couldn't, so i said (because i'm a tit) "that's because 22 is the constant. you always make the person add up to 22 - the number you're initially asked to choose is irrelevant because you always subtract it at the end, so it always has a relative value of zero."
his smile started to fade.
"does that make sense?" i sheepishly asked.
he thought about it for a while and then looked a bit sad before saying "yeah... i guess so."
realising i had totally just ruined this kid's magic trick, i thought i should probably go on and say some more.
"but this is why it's a good magic trick. you distract the person by giving them more information than they need so they lose focus, and the basis of all good magic tricks is about distraction. if you'd just said 'pick a number - now remove that number - now add 22... that's less impressive. it's all about the journey - the process... so yes, that is a very good magic trick!"
he suddenly looked a lot happier and smiled, and i felt like i had somehow imparted some sort of life lesson to him.
of course whilst he'd been distracting me with all of this, his mate had snuck behind me and stuck a note on my back saying 'i smell of poo!' and i suddenly wondered who had learnt the real lesson here and even what it was.