Thursday, November 30, 2006


A Brainstopper

This is absolutely true.

As I walked to a meeting yesterday afternoon, I passed two students in the hallway, sitting against the wall, talking to each other. They were both female, and I'd guess 18 or 19. What I overheard:

Student 1: I could convert you. I could make you a smoker.

Student 2: I'd love to be a smoker, but I'm donating my eggs.

It was all I could do not to stop in my tracks, turn to them, and say 'Huh?'

For the rest of the day, anytime I reflected on that conversation fragment, I could feel my brain actually stop. It has an oddly clarifying effect, like a palate cleanser. Almost a koan, really.

It would make a good short story assignment. Construct a narrative in which this conversation actually makes sense.

The best I could come up with is that the first student was basically teasing, and the second student is tempted by smoking as a weight-loss strategy but needs money more, which she could then use, presumably, to buy cigarettes. Or something.

I could write dialogue for a thousand years and not come up with Student 2's response.

What's the weirdest thing you've heard in the hallway lately?

I can't think of a good hallway conversation, but I do have a good conversation I heard while walking down the street:

First guy: "...and he's doing time in a Malaysian prison for smuggling narcotics in his luggage."

Second guy: (Some reaction of shock or surprise)

First guy: "Yeah, it's too bad, he's a really nice guy."

That just made me giggle. :)
Just the other day, I heard Male Student #1 exclaim loudly to Male Student #2:

"No, man, Minnesota is the best fucking state EVER!"

I have no problem with Minnesota, but I cannot imagine any standard by which it would be judged "the best fucking state ever."
Don't you know? Smoking is cool again among young people today. Only some people just don't have a taste for it. And you can't smoke when you want to donate your eggs because before you donate your eggs you have to take a lot of hormones, which (like birth control pills) don't go well with smoking--risk of stroke, etc. Why is smoking cool again? Why is donating eggs permitted by law? Don't ask me... But there are people of my acquaintance who could have that exact dialogue, so it makes sense to me!
Overheard in the hallway yesterday: Male student #1 - "I'm not going in there today, that A.H. expects you to read the assignment before class." Female student #1 -"Yeah, he's such a sh*%, told me to stop talking on my cellphone during class because it distracts everyone else - screw them I paid my tuition." Male student #2 "Hey, just go to and give he a bad rating - that will een things up."
Overheard in an ice cream shop in downtown Tampa: "My biggest fear is that I'd be abducted by a monkey."

I heard that sentence, and that sentence alone. My brain went into vapor lock for nine hours.

Lewis Black had a routine about a similar incident. He was at an IHOP when he heard a young woman say, "If it weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have made it through college." Trying to figure it out nearly gave him a stroke.
It was very hot, as it is wont to be in Texas, and one student said to another, "I can't wait to get back in my coffin."
Heard on the way to an academic conference in a small-town coffee shop, from a conversation between two twenty-something males:

"Dude, do you even *have* a frickin' rooster?"

I sense a sitcom episode somewhere in there....
that is somehow very zen

and of course it reminds me of my favorite website when I am missing new york:
Overheard in the hall, one guy to anther:

"I'm going to be late to psych, I forgot my snake."

That was the whole statement. After making this announcement to his friend, he walked out the door.

Is 'snake' code for something? This makes my head hurt.
Overheard on the walkway in front of the (huge, expansive, very much in the middle of an upscale residential neighborhood) front lawn of Tiny Liberal Arts College:

Scene: A number of students - approximately a dozen - have convened for a Naked Passion Dance. It is November. In Portland. Ergo it cold, damp, and altogether inappropriate weather for any sort of nakedness. Someone has snaked an extension cord out of a nearby door, and music is blasting (weakly, for this is a cold, wet, and icky day altogether inappropriate for electronics of any sort). There is wiggling, gyration, and an alarming amount of pasty flesh. Two adults (professors or alumni, by their tone) walk by.

[Adult 1]: Are they naked? Why hasn't anyone said anything about this?

[Adult 2]: What are we going to do, stop them?

[Adult 1] considers this for a moment, before shrugging. Yeah, you're right.

Both adults continue walking, ignoring the abundant (and chilly) gigglybits of the dancing students.
As for making the original exchange make sense...

Possibility A: Students 1 and 2 are on opposing teams in a debate or other dramatic class project. One team is doing a presentation on the evils of smokers, using groups of students dressed up in zombie costumes with large labels: "Smoker" and "Servant of Eeeevil" on sandwich boards. The other team is doing a presentation on innovative sources of revenue for underprivileged students. Student 1 needs more zombies for her section, an ambitious musical number on the structure of the lung, and offered to "convert" student 2 to her production. Alas, Student 2 is already committed to donating her eggs, plasma, duplicate and vestigial organs, and hair.

Possibility B: Students 1 and 2 are in your college's heretofore unknown applied agribuisiness program. Student 2 has been experimenting with a number of unsuccessful dessication processes for her project: "It's no Yolk! The egg-based alternative to Beef Jerky." Student 1 has graciously offered to convert Student 2's malfunctioning dessicator into a more useful (and interesting) smoker. Unfortunately, Student 2 has decided to give up the enterprise entirely, donate the remaining eggs, and become an English major.

(*laughs* I don't know. This doesn't actually seem like a bizarre conversation to me. Then again, I fear my conversations rarely make sense.)
Overheard about 10 years ago upon two male roommates entering class:

#1: "Hey buddy, you know you peed on the wall last night?!"

#2: "Yeah, sorry. I was aiming for the wastebasket."

Not lately, but about, oh, thirteen years ago or so. The place: one of the University of Chicago's academic workshops.

During a lull in the proceedings, one graduate student asked another the following immortal question:

"So, X, what is a masculine shade of nail polish?"
At the Panera Bread Store, waiting in line for a bagel:

Store Clerk, Female: Would you like cream cheese with your bagel?

Male Student: No, but do you have any preservatives? You know, like "grape".

Store Clerk, Female :We are out of preservatives, even the grape.
Overheard in the hallway yesterday: Male student #1 - "I'm not going in there today, that A.H. expects you to read the assignment before class." [...] Male student #2 "Hey, just go to and give he a bad rating - that will een things up."

I've been wondering if I made the right decision getting out of teaching. I still miss it, but this makes me miss it less.

My own story took place on the quad of a Big Ten university some years ago
Female Undrad 1: "I can totally see Mary's side, but I can like totally see what Jane is saying too, so it's just like
[hands flutter in frustration at the limits of the English language]
FU 2: "So you're ambivious?"
FU 1: "Eg-ZACT-ly!!"
From a big ten university after the first election of GW Bush.

Blonde #1: Ummm, excuse me Professor.
Proff: Yes?
Blonde #2: We're confused...
Blonde #1: Ummmm, yeah....wasn't Bush ALREADY president a few years back?
Blonde #2: You know, before Clinton...

At this point if I remember correctly my friend just shook her head in disbelief and kept on teaching.
I was teaching in Michigan during the Kerry-Bush 04 campaign when I overheard a student say, "I don't follow politics much. Which one is the republican?" I smaked my forehead and told her that she needed to go to the school store and rent a brain.
Many students can do that kind of mistake in his study life and compliant to each other for that mistake and make it hally conversation
regards saad, from
entire education
Thanks for providing information about A Brainstopper... love that info...

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