It is difficult to communicate with a person who adamantly refuses to accept any idea that contradicts her.

My friend was the last of our trio to plunk his identification card on the counter of the university health service. "Student", he said.

The elderly aide looked at him, then peered over her glasses (like only an elderly woman does) at my other colleague and I.

Being employed in a research institute, it was imperative that we obtain licences to work with radioactive substances, which is why we were there. My friend (we'll call him J) was a graduate student in the lab, with the fervent desire to leave after he had obtained his PhD.

The elderly aide (Auntie) scrutinised at my other colleague and I (the bona fide employees) before turning back to J.

"Staff", she pronounced.

Naturally, he had to protest against this convenient label. J had no intention of becoming a staff member until he reached 105.

"No, I'm a student."

(Another short pause followed this assertion.)

"Ah, but you're staff, right?"

It was obvious that the water had not sunk deep. Some might say that the soil was impervious to any attempts to inject even a little moisture, as could be understood from the exchange that followed.

Regarding the exchange that followed, I feel no obligation to elaborate. Suffice to say that Auntie was taking no truck from a graduate student, who having arrived with two staff members, was very firm with his status as a "student, I'm a STEW-DENT."

It was mostly more amusing than exasperating, and more exasperating than teaching a fish to polevault.

In the end, a more enlightened nurse came to our rescue upon seeing that Auntie had made no progress in processing applications for the past five minutes. Auntie grudgingly allowed that J was INDEED a student as he claimed and the world stopped laughing.