Thursday, February 18, 2010

I am an academic at heart. Other people may choose to use a different word here (nerd comes to mind)... I don't shy away from using this myself. I did, after all, create the facebook group "Self Proclaimed Math Nerds". I may not be your stereotypical nerd, but I am a proud one none-the-less. What can I say? I'm a curious creature, always eager to learn more. I'm known to spew out bizarre facts and am a frequent visitor of wikipedia, looking up information on whatever random topic happens to pique my interest at the moment. But lots of people are curious, right? Am I really that abnormal?

Answer: Perhaps I am. Now that my school days have (at least for the moment) come and gone I find myself actually jealous of high schoolers I see working on math homework, envious of college friends researching and writing a paper. I know, I'm bizarre. It's not like I eagerly looked forward to studying and doing schoolwork when I was actually IN school. But back then it was mandatory, and anything that is a "have to" is usually met with some degree of resentment. Now there's no one telling me I have to get this set of problems or that analysis handed in by Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. Learning was, however, my favorite part of pre-college school days and one of the highlights of college as well. While everyone in their right mind looked forward to lunch or gym periods (or studyhall... which I never chose to "take"), I was the one enjoying making flashcards and anticipating what we'd be reading next in English while dreading the social aspects of school life. Since I've graduated, I've not only picked up old math textbooks and worked on problems, but I've actually purchased new textbooks for my reading/problem-solving pleasure. When I say I miss college I miss more than just the friends, parties, dance company and campus atmosphere.

Yesterday is a prime example of my nerdiness. During the day I was bored. Very bored. So I visited, a site with cool, random articles and lists that I often frequent in an attempt to appease my curious mind. There was an interesting article on the facts behind "going Green"... what's really good for the environment vs. what things people typically think of as being cleaner/more energy efficient that are actually bad. It reminded me of how much ridicule I got in college (as a largely apathetic individual on a very activist do-good campus) for not recycling. I jokingly said then that I was "an economist and not an environmentalist" and that recycling costs millions more dollars than throwing things away. People got angry. I realize that you, reading this, are probably now angry too. Perhaps prepared to call me ignorant. The fact of the matter is that I had at one point seen an episode on the discovery channel that pointed out all the negatives of recycling. This blew me away... I had never before heard anyone say recycling is not what we should do as good, "moral" citizens. It's not like the show convinced me of anything, but it made me curious enough to look into the topic more... start up my own research project if you will. I spent weeks reading as many academic articles as I could find on the issue... not too many people are anti-recycling. I found that there is however, a small but vocal group who do believe it is not the way to go. And they're not lazy, apathetic, ignorant people... if anything, they're strong environmentalists and big supporters of wasting as little as possible. Anyways, I was reminded of all of this while visiting yesterday and it made me want to take on another new "research project" to satiate my ardent curiosity and relieve some of my boredom. I intended to spend the next several hours looking up information in order to find the perfect topic. While I started off reading some things on how it's ridiculous to believe there's not hundreds of other, more advanced life forms out there in space and then on the inexplicable physiological explanations for intuition (inexplicable explanations, haha), I ended up finding (and reading in its near-entirety) a 47 page "article" discussing the pros and cons of recycling that was published in a journal a few years back. After I was done I felt a strong urge to write a critical opinion essay on the topic. Don't worry. I refrained.

I have a constant need to learn more (and apparently to write essays and solve math problems). Maybe some day I'll go to grad school. For now I'll have to settle with helping people edit their papers and secretly buying used textbooks.

Just think of me as the non-stereotypical nerd girl choosing to read while her
classmates in the background choose the ever-more popular activity known as socialization
(and ignore the "waterstain" that shows I stole the photo)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Interesting blog topics used to fall into my lap. I swear to you, they sought me out. I would regularly encounter bizarre situations or hilarious characters that begged to be written about. Something like this has not happened in a very long time. Now, I generally have to rack my brain or ask for suggestions in order to come up with something to write about. Occasionally a topic will come to mind organically... but very rarely anymore does something happen that makes me think "I can not wait to blog about this". Maybe my perception of the world around me has changed. Last week, however, an interesting blog topic downright tackled me during my train ride home and here I am today, a few days later, hoping I can remember every detail of the story and retain its humor in my retelling.

Setting: January 28th 5:40 p.m., Stamford train station, outside, 17 degrees... 0 with windchill, 5 minutes until train arrival, went outside 5 minutes early because voice-over attendant man said "New Haven train now arriving on track 4"... he lied, I have 5 minutes still to go. I stare off at nothing in particular, looking at the ground, when walking into my line of vision is a pair of legs in dark baggy jeans and timberland boots. When this person invaded the empty bit of pavement I was staring at I was pulled out of my daze and looked up casually. The baggy jeans and timberlands belonged to a young 20 something African-American guy with long dreadlocks, a black shirt and a clerical white collar. My initial thought I'll admit was not "isn't he freezing?", it was, albeit stereotypical of me, a surprised reaction to see such a young man wearing a priest's collar, especially in combination with the rest of what he was wearing. I was intrigued. At this point I even thought to myself, hmm... there may be a blog here. Almost immediately however I dismissed the thought... so I see a young priest in some street clothes, big deal. I realized quickly that he was probably not a priest, but rather a deacon. Irrelevant.

Fast-forward 5 minutes and I'm on the train. Deacon guy sits down directly across from me and next to another young 20 something year old woman. I pull out my book and begin to read when I hear them start to talk. I kept reading for awhile but very quickly I was drawn into their conversation, not caring if they noticed that I was still reading the same page after 30 minutes and could probably guess that I was eavesdropping.  She begins the conversation "So, you a priest or something?". I suppress a smirk, I admit it. (From here on out my internal thought bubbles will be in italics). Priest man: "Actually, I'm a student of theology." Silence. More silence. Silence lasts a good 13 seconds. Priest man: "You know what theology is?" Silence. More silence. Silence lasts a good 13 seconds. Other people besides me sit there in silence and don't respond to people? This is new to me. Priest man: "It's the study of religion. From a biblical perspective. So the only book we need in class is the Bible..." and added as an afterthought "and a notebook to write in." Apparently the girl finally thought of something to say and replies, "That's cool. Do you get to give speeches in churches and all?" ... Speeches, sermons, whatever. Same thing. Priest man: "I get called in a lot to do funerals. Because I'm young." Now, here I don't blame her for her silent response. I don't see the connection either. He does funerals because he's young. Makes perfect sense. Note sarcasm. I guess priest man realized that in fact it didn't make much sense and he chose to explain... "Because so many young people are being killed nowadays... whenever someone young dies they call me in to run the funeral. It makes the families feel better to have someone else young there in charge." I still don't see it but, okay. He said the worst part of it is when it first happens and they call you to "the crime scene" to comfort the families. Where the on the earth is this kid from that there's so many murders of children and crime scenes? Somewhere close enough to warrant him being on my train? I mean, perhaps NYC... okay, that's possible, probable. But still... He went on to say how the first thing they tell you is not to cry when you're "running the ceremony". That's the first thing, really? Is "ceremony" the right word? He explains "I mean, if I cry I'm not going to like, get fired. But I'm supposed to come off as a strong support." "I wouldn't like, get fired..." I found this amusing verging on hilarious. Well, as hilarious as something related to a funeral could be. Imagine firing a priest, or expelling a student, for showing emotion at a funeral. At this point I look up as if looking to see if the ticket collector man is coming by and I notice priest man's hand on the girl's shoulder. Very odd. Is priest man hitting on her? What is happening here? I also happen to notice the huge Rolex on his wrist... "diamond" encrusted, the type that shows 3 different times at once. Aren't you supposed to give up things like that or something? At this point I decided to go back to my book. I felt bad for listening in... and it was a good book I had been looking forward to finishing up on the train.

Well what was said right as I made this decision to continue reading made me flat out put the book back in my purse. Ready for it? Priest man: "So, you wanna grab like tacos or something? Maybe catch a movie?" No wayyyyy, priest man is actually hitting on her! Can they do that? I mean he's not a priest yet, but shouldn't he be practicing? Maybe he's not going to be a Roman Catholic priest... aren't some of the other Christian denomination priest people allowed to date and marry? Are they still priests or are they called something else? Do they still wear white collars? I need to look up more about religions other than my own... I'm surprisingly un-knowledgeable in the area. At least regarding clergy and dating. (All of this was a split second thought by the way. You know how your mind can think so many things simultaneously or at least in such rapid succession that you're amazed you thought so much in the matter of 2 seconds? Yeah, one of those moments). Okay, sorry for interrupting priest-to-be and woman's dialogue. Re-cap, priest asks woman out for tacos. Woman says "Are you allowed to do that?" Eagerly awaiting priest man's response on my end here. Priest man gives a funny smile and says "Even holy men have to f*cking eat" Am I alive? Did I really just hear that?!? Did priest man just swear!!!!!! I'm tempted to ask him to repeat himself because I'm in such a state of disbelief. Woman laughs. Laugh of nervous disbelief? Laugh because it would be funny response to you if it was just a normal "non priest" saying it? Laugh because it's a funny response precisely for the reason that it is a "priest" saying it? Any way you look at it, I think she heard what I heard. At this point I'm so completely drawn in, waiting to see what happens next that I'm practically just staring at the two of them. Woman decides to ignore the food comment (and the swear... and the invite out) and goes back to the movie comment. "So what kind of movies do you like?" Priest man doesn't hesitate "Probably have to say gangster movies. Like mobs, mafia... that stuff" This is too much to bear... a swearing priest who likes movies about violent criminals and suggests tacos to seduce women. I couldn't make this up. I heard her ask what his favorite movie was but regrettably had to get off at my stop before I was able to hear his response.

Seriously contemplated skipping my stop to hear the conversation out and then catching a return train but decided that was just ultra sketch and pretty lame. Looking back though I think it may have been worth it.

I could not find an image of a baggy jeans, timberland & rolex wearing priest
but this odd ensemble would have been just as bizarre to see and therefore
seemed equally fitting... google images labeled him a "punk priest"