Friday, February 18, 2005

At the school for the gifted

The engineering building had four floors: Ground, Mezzanine, 2, and 3. The mezzanine was weird and only accessible from its own staircase in the front hall and from the master staircase in the back of the building. For us chemical engineers, the action was all on the ground floor (our lab and the Coke machine), the mezzanine (computer lab and business office), and the 3rd floor (Chem. E. department office, seminar room, snack machine and the other Coke machine). The second floor may as well have not existed.

This is relevant because of the doorknobs in the back stairwell. The doors from this stairwell to the main floors were the hollow metal kind, and the doorknobs on the ground floor, the mezzanine, and the third floor were broken so that you didn’t have to turn the doorknob in order to open the door. If you were trying to get into the stairwell with full hands, or if you were just having a bad day, you could kick the door open which made a very satisfying thwack.

Unfortunately, the door to the second floor had a perfectly functional doorknob. You had to turn that one, and I can’t tell you how many times it got us. The Doktah and I, for example, might be happily walking along, chatting about our day, and we’d walk straight into the door. Very jarring. It was remarkably difficult to remember that the second floor was different. The Doktah used to tell herself on way upstairs, “Turn the doorknob, turn the doorknob, turn the doorknob…” but then something would distract her and she’d try to pull the door open without turning it.

The phenomenon was not isolated to this single staircase. Because we ran up and down those stairs tens of times a day, we typically forgot to turn the doorknob of any similar hollow metal door, no matter the location, and we would look like idiots to the general public.

The worst happened during my last months at grad school: They fixed the doorknob on the third floor. After 5 and a half years of not needing to turn the knob, we suddenly had to.

The Doktah almost broke her foot.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Bananas and crepes

Food carts were ubiquitous at my graduate school, and pretty much every cluster of carts had at least one fruit cart. The fruit carts were second only to the crepe cart in deliciousness and value. Bananas were only 25 cents, and I bought one from the fruit cart almost daily.

When I went to lunch with The Doktah, I developed the habit of holding the banana to my ear, as though it were stuck in my ear, a la Ernie and Bert. The Doktah would say, “Hey, Mo, you have a banana in your ear!”

I would say, “What?”

“You have a banana in your ear!”


And so on, until the inevitable, “I can’t year you, I have a banana in my ear.” I would do this regardless of how many people were nearby.

Speaking of the crepe truck, which I was in the first paragraph, the crepe truck was a phenomenon on campus. The line at lunchtime was always a steady state of 10-15 people. But the crepes were worth the wait. Eventually, the crepe truck opened a store in the campus center that stayed open after all the food trucks were gone for the day. So one time, The Doktah and I were in the food court on campus where there was an imposter crepe restaurant. We were trying to decide what kind of food court food to get, when I saw the crepe place, without thinking I said, “Ooo! Let’s go get real crepes!”

I said this really really loudly, directly in front of the crepe store.

It’s time for your inside voice

Back in about 1999, The Doktah and I went to see Election starring Matthew Broderick. Inspector Gadget, a high-budget flop starring the same Matthew Broderick, was due to come out in a few months.

So the lights had dimmed, and a hush fell over the crowd. As the first preview began, The Doktah suddenly screamed out, “NEXT TIME, GADGET!”

Unfortunately, the preview was not, in fact, for Inspector Gadget. As The Doktah and I slunk down in our seats I leaned over to her and whispered, “That’s really more of an outside voice, Doktah.”

Monday, February 07, 2005

Shoe polish

The Doktah had to get ready for a presentation, and realized that her shoes looked terrible. Since the drugstore was already closed, she asked around the lab to see if anyone had any black shoe polish.

Baseball Cap Guy furrowed his brow and slowly said, “I think I have some… in Alabama.”

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A Ph.D. from an ivy league university doesn’t get you what it used to

During The Husband’s second year of grad school, his parents moved, but they moved into his grandmother’s house which they had bought. So on our first trip home to the new house, the house wasn’t really “new” to The Husband. I had never been there, so he was driving and when we got to the Mass Pike, he told me, “It’s Exit 11, the first exit after the exit for Route 20.” We were heading east on the Pike, and got off the Pike at the first exit after the exit for Route 20. As we navigated the twisting off ramp, The Husband looked around and said, “Where the hell are we?”

“What? What do you mean?” I said. “Don’t you know?”

“I’ve never been here before in my life,” replied The Husband. “Oh, wait! I think they were going to add an exit to the Pike. They must have finished it.” But the problem was that he didn’t know if they added it before or after our exit, so we weren’t sure if we had missed our exit or had not yet reached it.

Now, one might think that we would be able to deduce which it was, but although we knew we had accidentally gotten off at Exit 10A and that we were looking for Exit 11, we did not know if the exits on the Mass Pike increased from east to west or from west to east. I couldn’t check the map because it was dark and I get sick pretty much the instant I try to read in the car. That and because we were running out of time; The Husband had already turned the car around, and there were only about a hundred yards between us and the choice of east or west.

I called The Husband’s parents' house, and Father-In-Law answered the phone. “Which way do the exits increase on the Mass Pike?” I asked.

“Well, now, where are you?” he replied.

The toll booth was rapidly approaching. “We’re getting on the Pike right now,” I said. “Which way do the exits get bigger?”

“Did you get off at Route 20?” he asked me.

We were the next car in line to pay the toll. “No, we accidentally got off at the new exit, and we’re getting back on, and we don’t know if we should go east or west to get to Exit 11. Can you just tell me which way the exits get bigger?”

“Well, now, that new exit connects up to Route 20. You could just take that,” said Father-In-Law.

“No, it’s too late!” I said, with rising panic. The Husband was paying the toll and asking me which on-ramp to choose. “We’re already getting back on the Pike, and we have to choose east or west! Which way do the exits go?”

“Route 20 will take you right to Grafton St.,” he said.

We were 10 feet from the point of no return, and The Husband was looking to me for a decision. I love my Father-In-Law, but in this particular instance…


“You say you got off at 10A?” asked Father-In-Law.

“Augh!” I cried. The Husband looked at me, eyebrows raised. “I don’t know. Go east!” I told him.

“So if you want to get back on the Pike,” Father-In-Law was saying in my ear.

I got back on the phone with him. “It’s too late,” I told him. “We had to choose. We’re going east.” Luckily, east was the right decision, and we got home about fifteen minutes later.

When I told my family this story my father started laughing. Not at my father-in-law, but at me. “You’re getting a Ph.D. from an ivy league university, and you don’t know which way the exits go on the Mass Pike?”

I told him I missed that class.

Falling down 2

Disclaimer: I spoke to The Doktah tonight, and she said I did not convey the true feeling of my fall in the bank, so I'm taking another stab at it. Doktah, your thoughts?

Last night I was talking to The Doktah on the phone, and right in the middle of her telling me something very important, The Husband came over and started staring at me with a really goofy grin. This made it very hard to concentrate on the conversation, so I had to interrupt The Doktah to ask The Husband, “What?” Apparently, the fact that I was lying on the living room floor while talking on the phone struck him as highly amusing.

I explained to The Doktah that The Husband was laughing at me for no reason, and she said, “Well, to be fair, you do do funny stuff all the time without realizing it. Remember the time you fell down in the bank?”

“No,” I replied.

“Exactly!” she said. “We were waiting in line for the teller, and you just suddenly fell down. and almost knocked over a pole! Let me make this clear: You didn’t trip. You weren’t pushed. You were just standing there, and then you fell down. It was as though there had been an extremely localized earthquake exactly where you were standing.” After this happened, The Doktah gasped, “Are you all right?” I looked at her, confused, and said, “What? Yes, why?” I had not even noticed that I fell.

You see, I fall down a lot. One time in college, I tripped over nothing and fell down the stairs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m still not quite sure how it happened. One second I was going down the marble staircase, the next second I was lying down with my feet at the top of the stairs and my head at the bottom. There were lots of people around, so I leapt up and shouted, “I’M FINE!” then ran away to hide.

So a little wobbling in a bank doesn’t exactly stick in my head.