Posted by: Clive | July 23, 2008

A communication puzzle

Here’s a story that I came across today which took me a while to work out, but I got it in the end. See if you can too.

A father and his son were driving to a ball game when their car stalled on the railroad tracks. In the distance a train whistle blew a warning. Frantically the father tried to start the engine, but in his panic he couldn’t turn the key, and the car was hit by the onrushing train. An ambulance sped to the scene and picked them up. On the way to the hospital, the father died. The son was still alive but his condition was very serious, and he needed immediate surgery. The moment they arrived at the hospital, he was wheeled into an emergency operating room, and the surgeon came in, expecting a routine case. However, on seeing the boy the surgeon blanched and muttered, “I can’t operate on this boy – he’s my son.

from: Kollock & O’Brien (1994) The Production of Reality Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage.

How can you explain the surgeon’s dilemma? An iPod A coffee in September to the first who comments with a viable explanation.



  1. the surgeon was his mum!

  2. How did you do that Lara?? Ive been sat here for ages trying to work it out!! Well done!!

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