Sunday, October 11, 2015

Time Out

Traveling up to my office from the basement parking garage on a rainy early October morning, the elevator stopped on the first floor, and a young man got in.  He looked slightly familiar, but I couldn’t place him. More noteworthy, he was soaking wet and barefoot, and held his rather stylish sneakers in one hand.  He hit the number nine on the elevator control panel, one floor up from my eighth floor office, and I figured he must be one of our students at Linguistics & Philosophy.

I looked over at him and asked, straight faced, “Did you swim here?”

“No, actually, I ran all the way here from my apartment,” he said, an equally serious expression on his face.

“You don’t have an umbrella?” I asked.

“You can’t run with an umbrella,” he said.

Despite his standing in the Stata Center elevator in his bare feet, his manner was sober during our repartee, and his ironic humor took me by surprise. I studied him briefly, not quite knowing what to make of him. “I like your spirit,” I said.

He was a good looking guy.  In fact, I think our department has a larger number of classically good looking students than most, in my opinion.  I’m not sure why that is.

“I’m definitely going to have to write about you on my blog,” I warned him.

“Then I will have to read your blog,” he said.

“It might take me a couple of months to post this, since I write stories and not just daily stuff.”

“A couple of months?” he asked, sounding appalled.

Once again I heard the voice of my bff Deb, my muse and sometimes editor telling me that I should post more often, at least once a week, even if it’s just a sentence or a paragraph.  I suppose she was right.

“I’ll try to get to it sooner,” I promised him.

The elevator door opened, and I got out, turning around to ask him his name.

“Brad.  Skow,” he said.  I had certainly heard of Brad.  He was a philosophy professor in our department. I should venture out of my office more often.  But I’m going to give myself a break here, because, to be fair, I had never seen Brad Skow soaking wet.

Back at my office, I looked him up on the department’s web site, and learned that Brad is a philosophy professor who studies Time – he questions whether time actually passes.  When I read this, I couldn’t help thinking, “If time doesn’t really pass, then what’s the big deal about waiting two months for me to post a story on my blog?”

I have spent many mind-twisting hours listening to Noam’s discussions with faculty and students as they tried to answer the questions, “What is thought” and “What is the mind” (“Don’t Mind Me”), and now I also have to be freaked out about time passing? In fact, when Laura and I watched the recent lunar eclipse with our friends Linda and Gary from the comfort of our heated outdoor swim spa, I have to admit to dipping my head under the water a few times during their discussion about the awesomely immense and mind-boggling infinity of the universe.

My second thought about Brad was that we needed more professors like him, to show students that life doesn’t have to be all about academic seriousness and studies, but it can also be about fun.

But then I thought, "Wait a minute, I have seen strange and fun and out of the ordinary things at MIT, at the hands of both students and professors since my brother Paul began his undergrad studies in 1974, so why am I having this reaction?  Why am I so relieved and pleased to see one of our professors wet and barefoot in an elevator?"

To be continued...