What we [don’t] say to our supervisors, Or the price of a ‘really good work’

Student (Mon 8.46): Dear Supervisor. Would you have the time to look at my abstract if I sent it to you today? The abstract which I haven’t even begun to write. The abstract for a non-existent article which I haven’t begun to write and might not for a very long time.

Supervisor (Mon 8.47): Yes.

Student (Mon 9.02): Thanks! Even if by ‘yes’ you mean ‘I have more fun things to do, but since I had the indiscretion to agree to be your supervisor, I will read it – how can I not. It better be entertaining though’. Will send before lunch. If I can pull out an abstract out of a hat before lunch. If I manage to write it at all, ever.

Student (Mon 11.25): This is the hardest thing I have done in the past 1.5 years. Please be harsh find attached. Come what may. Destroy, decompose the whole thing; erase it, please, from the face of the earth.

Supervisor (Mon 12.16): Looks great, Student – clearly written and structured.  A few minor comments and suggestions. Really good work. 

Student (Mon 12.16) Am I dreaming? Unless by ‘minor comments’ you mean ‘none of this makes any sense, and never will, so you might as well quit the whole thing before you waste any more of my and your time and taxpayers’ money.’ In either case thank you, as, at the very least, you are very kind. (Email draft discarded.)

(A walk to the kitchen (six flights of stairs) to fetch coffee. Gingerly opening the commented abstract and reading the comments with trepidation. A walk to the kitchen (same six flights of stairs, unnecessarily) to fetch water for the plant. Watering the plant.)

Student (Mon 12.37): Thank you.

Supervisor (Mon 12.38): No problem.

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