I had a genuine old fogey moment on my commute home this evening. I was actually prompted to forgo my Canadian "pretending not to hear what the person beside you is saying in a perfectly audible voice" practice.
Two physics graduate students were talking on the bus, sitting across the aisle from each other in the manner of young men who wish to avoid being thought a fairy by sitting beside--and possibly brushing legs with--another male. As I was sitting down beside one of them, the guy across the aisle said, "And you can't even go study with Schrieffer anymore because he's in jail."
The guy beside me said, "Yeah, I heard that. He got two years for vehicular manslaughter. That's awesome! Well, I mean, not for him."
"No, but it was great for the guy he killed," I said. I honestly don't know where it came from.
"Uh, no I guess it sucked for him too," the kid acknowledged. I pulled my book out of my bag and went back to "pretending not to hear what the person beside you is saying in a perfectly audible voice."
I think the guy across the aisle must have agreed with me, because he said, "Yeah, apparently he had a whole long record of being pulled over going 100 miles an hour, and he would say, 'I'm a Nobel Prize winner, I can do what I want'."
They went back to their topic about where to go after grad school, eventually settling on two post-docs as the most they would take before going into industry. I sighed inwardly. Both those young fellows, should they actually complete their doctorates, will accept not only as many post-docs as they can, but one-year 4-4 teaching contracts and anything else that comes their way. If Schrieffer weren't in jail, they still wouldn't be going to study with him, because his in-box would be full of fawning emails from graduate students at small Canadian universities.
I can't really blame them. They're just young and, uh, young. But I wish they'd either sit beside each other, so I'm not thrust in the middle of their conversations, or shut up. Remember that scene in Star Trek IV where they go back in time to more-or-less now, and Spock uses the Vulcan nerve pinch to render unconscious a guy playing loud music on a bus? No? Well, I think of it often.