The mathematician
and the manager

A man in a hot-air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The woman below replied, "You're in a hot-air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You're between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."

"You must be a mathematician," said the balloonist.

"I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I've no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is, I'm still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help at all. If anything, you've delayed my trip."

The woman below responded, "You must be in Management."

"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you're going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you've no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault."

QUESTION: What was the woman wearing, if we assume that the parties to the above conversation were speaking accurately and truthfully, and that the first paragraph above is accurate?

(answer below)

Answer: A deep-sea diver's suit. Or she was at least in a bathysphere or some such contraption.

The longitude and latitude given would place this conversation in a part of the Atlantic where there is essentially no "ground" above sea level. The balloonist would have been "hovering" 30 feet above the ocean floor. One wonders how they could hear each other, but people in different disciplines often have trouble hearing each other anyway.

(This joke(?) was sent to the entire Mathematics Department in e-mail by a colleague of mine. The only person, among the 200 or so who got his e-mail, who took note of the geographic oddity, was a Specialized Honours pure maths student.)