Monday, February 25, 2008

Now Officially Cranky and Middle -Aged

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.


the chocolate lady מרת שאקאלאד said...

What a horrifying story! I mean the killer driver, not the annoying kids.
That is just a bewildering story.

I do remember that bit in Star Trek IV. That may have been a real turning point in the Radio Wars (of course, a nerve pinch would in actual practice leave the radio on), but Do the Right Thing was still to come.

FJ said...

Worse, it seems that Schrieffer's homies attempted to put the blame on the victims, who were not wearing seat belts. Nonetheless, the prosecution pointed out, they would not have been killed if Schrieffer hadn't banged into them going 111 mph. I do believe Schrieffer may have a mental illness--there were some rumours of failing to take his meds--but you do have to wonder if winning that Nobel Prize didn't actually, in the end, ruin his life. Of course, people with many lesser accomplishments also often feel they are above normal rules and regulations, so who knows.

Anonymous said...

He was 74 at the time of the sentencing. Maybe an argument for mandatory retirement AND license re-testing for the elderly?

Two year sentence --- presumably out now? Still listed as emeritus, though.


FJ said...

Actually, teens have the worst driving records. (Details here
.) Older folks are relatively safe, except for megalomaniac, Nobel Prize-winning jerks. Perhaps mandatory license re-testing for megalomaniacs?