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Anger vs. Exasperation

A father wanted to illustrate to his son the difference between “anger” and “exasperation.” He looked up the phone number of a pompous fellow commuter whom he knew only by name and reputation, and he dialed the number. When the call was answered by the man, the father asked, “Is Adolph there?” “There’s no Adolph here. Why don’t you get the right number before bothering people this hour of the night?” roared the man on the other end.

“Now that,” said the father when he put down the phone, “was simply annoyance. We’ll wait a few minutes, and then you’ll hear something.” After a decent interval, the father dialed the same number and again asked, “Is Adolph there?” This time the other party literally screamed into the phone, “What’s the matter with you, are you crazy? I told you to look up the number and stop bothering me!” Whereupon the receiver at the other end was slammed down. “Now that fellow was angry,” said the father. “In a few minutes I will show you what I mean by exasperation compared to anger.”

After 15 minutes or so, the father dialed the same number for the third time, and when the same man answered at the other end, the father said almost cheerily, “Hello, this is Adolph. Have there been any messages for me during the past half hour or so?”

Ralph L. Woods, The Modern Handbook of Humor, McGraw-Hill, quoted in Bits & Pieces, June 22, 1995, pp. 3-5.