Wednesday, May 11, 2011


121. Feeling embarrassed for looking up synonyms of important. After reading the first draft of my application, a senior researcher has commented, "Where are your feelings? Actually, what are your feelings?" The draft was entirely devoid of words describing the quality of my techniques and results. To have it any other way would have made me feel like a literature undergraduate, standing in a room full of Dorothy Parkers and Alexander Popes and telling them how great my poems are. Nevertheless, one common advice from all Alexander Popes who have read my draft was to include those precious words. Even my fellow runner, supposedly less experienced, does it.
"I just reread your application. One of the reasons it is kicking my current application's ass is because it uses words like innovative and new all over the place," I complained to him.
"If there's one thing I've learnt in academia so far, it's to use buzzwords as often as possible."
"I hate buzzwords."
"No Gazpacho, hate is not a good buzzword. It is an anti-buzzword. It kills the buzz."
"It buzzes the buzz."
"I am *buzzing* all over the place in my D1 at the moment. I even looked up on for synonyms of vital, powerful, important, crucial and SIGNIFICANT.

Take THAT buzzers."

122. "Good night!" As I leave, he mumbles something in return, long enough not to be a "Good night." "I'm sorry?" I double back. Standing up from his chair, Jake says, "I'll walk with you. I'm going to the restroom."

Hovering around his office to wait for Jake, I wonder if I heard correctly. While it would make sense for him to walk with me (the restroom is a mere metre away from the lifts, where I'm heading), it doesn't make sense for him to announce toilet trips, as we almost never talk at work. I am not sure whether I want to accompany Jake to the restroom, and Zoe is waiting ahead of me, so I start walking towards her as he locks his office. Just before reaching the restroom, I say good night to Jake one more time, which is code for "We are now turning around the corner to get the lift so you can enter the toilet in your own privacy."

As soon as we are out of (his) sight, I start jumping up and down. It has nothing to do with Jake and me actually exchanging more than the minimum greetings at work, but rather, it is about the completion of my application. Regardless of what the real reason for my jubilant behavior is, I feel utterly stupid being mid-air when Jake suddenly re-appears. He's supposed to be in the restroom! What is he doing here? The awkward moment when you say good night to someone twice and he is still around. Even more awkward when you get distracted wondering why he is not answering Nature's call yet. Maybe he is worried that, standing so close to the restroom, Zoe and I can hear... noises?

A lift comes up. We all get in. This is a little bizarre, I think to myself. Maybe he is using a restroom on another floor. Whatever works, I suppose. People should feel comfortable with these things. If the restroom on your floor does not speak to you, you are completely entitled to go to a different one.

The lift opens onto the third floor, the only way we can exit the building after 7 pm. As Zoe swipes her security card, the electric door slides open, and Jake follows us outside, where, as far as I know, there is no restroom. I have to ask. "Are you... coming with us?" He mumbles again, the only word I can make out is "No", and I already know that from him starting to take a different route. As we are really out of his sight this time, I turn to Zoe, "What did he say?" "He said he was going to draw lines and circles on his home computer..." "Oh."

Three hours later, I finally realize what he has said when I was leaving. "I'll walk with you. I'm going to take a rest at home."

123. "Excusez-moi." The stranger turns around. "Could you please take a picture for us?" I probably could have tried to say that in French also, but I wouldn't have had a clue how to say, "because my friend thinks I look completely "hilarious" in these oversized 3D glasses, so now we would like a picture with all of us wearing them, inside a cinema..."

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