Sunday, August 30, 2009

I do things, part 3: An oral defense (in the academic sense)

Recall that as a junior at Purdue, I went on a date with a grad student in chemistry (read Part 2 of this series for more background). When we left off, I was not in a tanning booth, or getting my hair styled, or surveying my wardrobe to get ready -- no, I studyed chemistry. Here is the rest of the tale...

Although the title of part 3 might have a spicy double-entendre, the date was kind of underwhelming. We met at a local hangout in the early evening, on a Friday. To say Tom (that was his name) seemed distracted is an understatement. Although he talked a blue streak (about himself and his research), he refused to make eye contact. He seemed to be either examining his third shirt button or speaking to someone directly behind me -- to the point I had to fight the urge to look around. It struck me as more nerves than rudeness, but I didn't know exactly how to put him at ease, being pretty darned uncomfortable myself. I mostly sat quietly and listened. That is, until...

He spoke to me of Love (Canal)
I was just thinking what a disaster this was, and maybe Tom was having similar thoughts, because he noted that a recent documentary on the Love Canal was playing on campus. Well, I had stumbled upon articles on the subject during my research, and my memory at that time was good. Oh my God. I know something about this. I sudddenly started talking. Not just talking, narrating, spewing facts like a voice over on the Discovery Channel. I regaled him with details about the site--the caustics, alkalines, fatty acids and chlorinated hydrocarbons, I let loose with a torrent of factoids on the Love Canal.

Now Tom did actually make eye contact. Actually he stared. He looked more startled than pleased, as if a dog suddenly stood on its hind legs and talked. I knew that my soliloquy was not having the desired effect, but I still gloated. After all spending the date avoiding eye contact, he finally saw me. Hah! Made ya look! Perhaps because it was clear that the worst of our little date had just taken place, we settled down and actually did start to talk to each other. Not a great conversation, and no interpersonal chemistry. Still, we ended the evening on a pleasant note, knowing we wouldn't have to cross the street avoid each other in the future.

What was my point here?
Oh, I don't know. I suppose my point is that old hackneyed cliche, just be yourself when you're in the social scene. In all other matters, do go to the library and get informed. Cheers.


  1. It's only a conversation when it works both ways. Still, it sounds as if you had to do all the work to connect. I always find that to be a pain.

    Chalk it up to one more of those life experiences that have made you the woman you are today....*G*


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