06 July 2010

Riddle me this

One of my colleagues, an accountant in our department, is also a well-known practical jokester along with being a truly wonderful human being with a heart full of kindness.

But, back to the practical joking side. If he happens to pop his head into the doorway of your office, there’s a high likelihood that some sort of amusement is about to follow.

Not so long ago, he made the rounds through the office asking a riddle. I didn’t get the answer right, but much to his astonishment, no one did.

To set the stage, I work in a professional industry where the workforce is predominantly female at all levels of the organization. Our VP-Operations is female and has been in this industry for the entire duration of her career.

Here’s the riddle.

A man and his young son were in a serious automobile accident. By the time the ambulance arrived, it was too late for the paramedics to save the man, but the child was still alive. The ambulance rushed him to the hospital and in the emergency room, the medical team quickly determined that surgery was necessary to save his life. They wheeled the child into the operating room and called a doctor in to perform the emergency operation. The doctor raced downstairs, prepped and stepped into the operating room, but after taking one look at the patient, said to the medical team: “I cannot operate on this patient.”

One of the nurses asked, “But doctor, why not?”

The doctor answered, “Because this patient is my son.”

Who is the doctor?

As I mentioned, my guess was incorrect. I guessed that the doctor was the child’s grandfather. Didn’t sound right to me at the time, but I was grasping.

My coworker shook his head and said, the doctor is the child’s mother.

So obvious.

That’s what he said too.

But he had asked a half dozen college educated women to answer the riddle and not one got the answer right. Every single person assumed that the doctor’s gender was male.

We are a forward thinking group that supports the advancement of women. So why did this very basic assumption eclipse our consideration?

I don’t have the answer to that riddle.


  1. I remember hearing this joke/riddle back in high school, and I too didn't even THINK to THINK it was his mother.

    And I think it's odd, how even now, with more and more women being doctors, lawyers, dentists, we still don't automatically think, "His mother."

    Fun and thought-provoking post, Diane!