This is a story of a man we will call “Tom”, because that is his name. Tom is a non-engineer. He was listening to a fascinating story I was telling about aggregates and the influence of asphalt properties dues to the physical dimension of the aggregates in the mix. I won’t retell it here, but it was amazing.

Tom, who is a non-engineer – did I make that clear? – decided that since it was of no interest to him, he would pretend to fall asleep during the story. This act did its job, taking the attention away from the rather interesting engineering story and focusing it on his sleeping antics. He thought it was boring because of ignorance on matters of flat and elongated particles in an asphalt mixture and, further more, didn’t seem to want to learn about them. Tom is not right in the head, I think.

A week later, Tom approached me to apologize. He said that he felt so bad that night that he laid there in bed and couldn’t fall asleep, racked with guilt, haunted by regret, for having made fun of me, and pretty much all of engineering. Then Tom repeated that he couldn’t fall asleep, but then, he remembered my story and fell right to sleep. I don’t think his regret was sincere.

But all this brings up the issue of non-engineers not understanding the engineer or what the engineer does and not caring to. What is odd about that is that these Toms of the world benefit greatly from engineer – drinking clean water, using electricity, driving a vehicle on our highway system, and enjoying all the wonderful fruits of the engineers’ labors, and yet, still, this is what the engineer gets from the Toms in his life.

It is a good thing engineers are public servants and not bent on revenge. We could figure a great way to get back at him. But we won’t.