Most of the other PhD’s I worked around were unbelievably brilliant but lacked, shall we say, common sense or any social graces. I used to say that they may have discover the hole in the ozone, but they couldn’t cross the street because they would get hit by a bus. My PhD friend had three grown children, and at the time my son was young so we often talked about parenting dilemmas and such as we ate lunch together.
I could never figure out why she was being so generous with her time in spending it with me. In retrospect, she may not have had a lot of choice. At that point in my life, I couldn’t imagine staying in college long enough to get a PhD. You have to realize how rare a female Nuclear Physicist was even in the 90’s. Despite what James Bond films might have you believe, they weren’t routinely found assigned to high level government jobs. And if they were they certainly weren’t wearing short shorts, but I digress. The other male physicists wouldn’t have anything to do with her, socially or professionally. It was their loss.
One day, I as I was putting together my sack lunch for the day I grabbed an extra juice drink to share with her. This was the kind that looks like a metallic IV bag with a puny plastic straw that’s supposed to puncture it. As we both sat struggling to get the drinking apparatus to function she remarked, “Why can’t I get the juice out of here? It’s not rocket science!” We both looked at each other as she grabbed mine and said, “Well I guess I should be able to do this then!” We ended up with puddles of sticky juice everywhere, laughing.
Another time we got on the subject of trying to do things that sound so perfect and turn out horribly wrong. She told me when her children were younger she had listed her home for sale. A real estate agent was coming over in the afternoon to list it. She had spent weeks cleaning, painting and generally sprucing up the house. She had read somewhere that candles created a warm glow and she thought that lighting a fire in the fireplace would make a nice, homey touch. She was lighting the fire just as the agent was ringing the doorbell. It didn’t but a few minutes to realize that her cats had been using the fireplace ash for a litter box. They actually had to leave the house and talk out in the yard!
To this day the fireplace story is my prime example of good intentions gone very badly. I often think of her and hope that in the years after I left that the other faculty became enlightened. I am ever the optimist.