austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

You're gonna see a smilin' face, fireplace, cozy room

I'd gone to Arby's to finish reading 1927, an obsessively detailed catalogue of most everything interesting that was going on in that year, which is just the sort of history book to appeal to me since I like lots of little gritty facts clogging up my nonfiction. The big picture is nice too, but I'm the kind of guy who on hearing that, say, ``the truce talks quickly agreed on some minor points'' wants to know what those minor points were. In line ahead of me were two elderly ladies having trouble deciding what they wanted, so after a few rounds of asking each other and the cashier they said that he'd better take me first, and I thanked them if they were sure they didn't want to go first.

At the end of lunch, when I was in the chapter about entertainment, one of them came to me and asked what I was reading. I gave the title and described quickly what it was, and she said, ``Oh, 1927, that was eighty years ago,'' which being reasonable I agreed with. ``I was born in 1927,'' she said, and I said she'd picked a good year to be born. (It was an interesting year, although I wonder how many years aren't interesting when read about in careful detail. 1955, maybe.) She wondered if I was a student, and no, I was just reading for the fun of it, which prompted her to say I must be very smart, for which I thanked her. Then it got odd.

She began to talk about one of her children, who was back in school after having been too convinced of his own smartness for it earlier in life. He was a few credits short of a degree and having trouble with an instructor who returned every paper dripping with angry and sarcastic comments. According to online reviews, this teacher is particularly vicious to some students every class, but is not on record as being nice to anyone. (There is of course selection bias here.) She's recommended he just keep all these papers and turn them over to the dean at the end of the term, which seems appropriate. And then she said that I would make a good teacher, and she hoped that I'd find a spot where I could. Her friend came along, and they had to leave, and I thanked her for the conversation.

I hadn't said a word about what I do, or what I had done, and really all I had done was a couple rounds of ordinary courtesy. But in the view of life-as-a-story, that was almost certainly the big Rallying Point moment where Our Hero starts to turn things around. I just didn't expect such a moment for me to have so much Horsey Sauce.

Trivia: Gilbert Romme, concerned about uncertainties in the Moon's motion which made it impossible to project infinitely far into the future of 1795 whether the New Moon would be before or after midnight 22 September convinced the committee on the French Revolutionary Calendar -- the calendar depends for its leap days on this event -- to re-assemble and re-consider the issue when the problem became acute, in 36,000 years. Source: The Measure of All Things, Ken Alder.

Currently Reading: Nightside City, Lawrence Watt-Evans.

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