In “A Day’s Wait,” the boy’s confusion over a principle as seemingly straightforward as temperature represents the endless possibilities of individual interpretation, and how that paves the way for profound miscommunication. When the boy falls ill and his father calls for the doctor, what should be a plain and objective scientific fact instead becomes a matter of perfect ambiguity. The boy’s confusion of a measurement given in Fahrenheit for the same number in Celsius exemplifies just how differently someone can understand the same reality, and underscores the need for clear and open communication—he thinks he’s dying with a 102-degree fever because his classmates in France told him that a 44-degree fever is fatal. As this scenario illustrates, even basic facts people assume to be in absolute agreement about can carry vastly different meanings in different contexts. Reaching a common understanding requires dialogue and transparency, not silence and pretense.
Temperature Quotes in A Day’s Wait
But when I came downstairs he was dressed, sitting by the fire, looking a very sick and miserable boy of nine years. When I put my hand on his forehead I knew he had a fever.
“You go up to bed,” I said, “You’re sick.”
“I’m all right,” he said.
“Your temperature is all right,” I said. “It’s nothing to worry about.”
“I don’t worry,” he said, “but I can’t keep from thinking.”
“Don’t think,” I said. “Just take it easy.”
“I’m taking it easy,” he said and looked straight ahead. He was evidently holding tight onto himself about something.
“People don’t die with a fever of one hundred and two. That’s a silly way to talk.”
“I know they do. At school in France the boys told me you can’t live with forty-four degrees. I’ve got a hundred and two.”
He had been waiting to die all day, ever since nine o’clock in the morning.
“Poor old Schatz. It’s like miles and kilometers. You aren’t going to die. That’s a different thermometer. On that thermometer thirty-seven is normal. On this kind it’s ninety-eight.”