A job interview question about three people at a bus stop

The content of this post was sent to me in an email from a friend, where he mentioned it as a job interview question. As I just learned, this question was (also) posed in the movie 16 Blocks, featuring Bruce Willis and Mos Def. Regardless of its origin, it presents a fun problem (though I personally wouldn’t ask it during a job interview).

The Setup

You’re driving down the road in your car on a wild and stormy night. The weather is like a hurricane, with heavy rains, high winds, and lightning flashing constantly. While driving, you come across a partially-covered bus stop, and you can see three people waiting for a bus:

  1. An old woman who looks as if she is about to die.
  2. An old friend who once saved your life.
  3. The perfect partner you have been dreaming about (your “soulmate”).

Knowing that you only have room for one passenger in your car (it’s a really small car), which one would you choose to offer a ride to? And why?

Discussion

You can pick up the old woman, because she is going to die, and thus you should save her first. Or you can take the old friend because he once saved your life, and this would be the perfect chance to pay him back. However, you may never be able to find your soulmate again.

I encourage you to think before you continue reading, and see what answer you come up with. It may also help to close your eyes and visualize the situation.

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To see the answer from Bruce Willis in the movie 16 Blocks, scroll down ...

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The answer from the Bruce Willis character in 16 Blocks

“I would give the car keys to my old friend, and let him take the old woman to the hospital. Then I would stay behind and wait for the bus with the partner of my dreams.”

An interesting question, and an interesting answer.

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