Tuesday, November 15, 2005

So, this is some weather we’re having, huh?

During my first semester at grad school, the ten or so students in my class formed a pretty tight-knit group, a natural result of everyone’s taking the same classes and working on homework together. So when, in my second semester, one of the guys suddenly began turning down all invitations for get-togethers outside of class, it struck the rest of us as odd.

After about three weeks of his mysterious disappearing act, the rest of us started discussing his strange behavior. “Hey, have any of you seen him lately? I mean outside of classes?” I asked the group before class started one day.

“We were going to go to the movies last week, but he backed out,” someone replied.

“Yeah… a bunch were going to go to Quizzo at the bar, and he backed out on us, too!” someone added. Even The Doktah, who was actually pretty good friends with this guy during the first semester, hadn’t seen him in a while. Since this guy had grown up in the area, we figured he must have been hanging out with friends from high school.

So when he arrived at class I teased him by saying, “Hey, Crazy Secretive Guy, we know you have secret friends!” He looked very startled and said, “What?” nervously.

“Well,” I replied, “you haven’t been hanging out with any of us the past couple of weeks, so you must be hanging out with other people.” He just looked very shifty and changed the subject.

Well. As it turned out, he did have a secret friend. He had met a girl over Christmas break, and had been secretly dating her for weeks. He didn’t tell any of us about it until they got engaged about a month later. Why did he keep her a secret? We never did find out. We know that she didn’t keep their relationship a secret. In fact, one of our classmates happened to be friends with Crazy Secretive Guy’s fiancée, and had known that they were dating all along. She didn’t mention it to any of us grad students because it was obvious that Crazy Secretive Guy didn’t want us to know, but she had no idea why not. We could only conclude that we embarrassed him.

Crazy Secretive Guy got even crazier and more secretive from this point on. He had loaned me a sleeping bag for a weekend camping trip, and when I tried to return it to his apartment building, he wouldn’t let me upstairs, nor would he come down to see me. The doorman called up to his apartment and relayed the message that Crazy Secretive Guy wanted me to leave the sleeping bag with the doorman and go.

His strangest attempt at keeping a secret, however, occurred right around the time we were assigned to advisors. The way that worked in my department was that every professor in the market for a grad student gave a presentation, and then every grad student in the market for an advisor wrote down his or her top three advisor choices on a super-secret ballot and turned it in to the department head. In my particular class, we did not discuss our advisor choices among ourselves ahead of time. This was because all ten of us appeared to want the same two advisors which was awkward, as we couldn’t all work for the same two people.

But after the advisor assignments were handed out, I ran into Crazy Secretive Guy in the computer lab. I asked him who he would be working for. He hemmed and hawed a bit, and then he changed the subject. He wouldn’t tell me who his advisor was.

For the benefit of any readers unfamiliar with the nuances of graduate school, I feel that I should stress that the identity of your advisor is not really something that you can keep secret. His name is usually right there on the door of your lab. It’s the last name on your papers, and he signs your thesis. It’s sort of public knowledge. So what Crazy Secretive Guy hoped to gain by the few extra hours of secrecy, I couldn’t say.

Eventually, Crazy Secretive Guy decided that engineering grad school wasn’t his thing and went off to law school. He got married shortly after that. Needless to say, none of us were invited to the wedding.


Joshua said...

Hey Mo,

Just reading your blog again. I love your blog. *laugh* It makes me do alot of nostalgebra. I was just reflecting a bit on my grad school days in my own blog. I hope work is going well for you. Do you still keep in touch with the "Doktah" and friends? *smile*

Mo said...

Yup, The Doktah and I are still very good friends. She's left quite a lot of comments on the blog, if you want to go looking.