As I was preparing to leave the apartment yesterday morning there appeared a young girl at the door. Not the one I hat hit the day prior, but the daughter of my neighbor, she had a note explaining that the president of the Mumbai Planetary society and nationally renowned astrophysicist J.J. Rawal would be speaking this evening at the community center. My Neighbor a physics teacher at a local college guessed correctly that I would be very interested in attending. This is just the type of thing I would jump at the chance to attend at home. She wanted me to inform my students and I ensured her that I would and that I was personally looking forward to this evening. “You are planning on going?” “I hope to attend”, I said realizing how ambiguous my answers to questions have become. I informed all of my classes but it was received with little interest, still I held out hope that I would see at least one of them there in the evening.
I arrived sharply at 6:00 and spent the next ten minutes getting bounced around on a wild auditorium chase where each person escorted me to another who was slightly more proficient in English than the last. Even though I was 10 minutes late I still managed to be 20 minutes early. When something is supposed to start at 6:00 what it really means is that it won’t start before 6:00. When I arrived I saw that all of the students I had told had better things to do with their evening than to show up here. While we waited for the speaker to arrive my neighbor introduced me to the director of the community center. He escorted me into his office and we tried to solve some of the world’s problems.
The speaker arrived and we adjourned to the auditorium. The director began by introducing the speaker and listing his accomplishments as his support staff began to take pictures and set up. My excitement quickly turned to disappointment as the speaker began his talk in Gujarati. For two hours I endured this presentation, snapping out of my daydream every 10 minutes or so to recognizable words “blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah black hole blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah big bang.” It was awful. I was running my own mental marathon of trying to stay awake and appearing attentive. I felt like Oddie from Garfield when John is talking to him. I also realized how someone very interested in what the speaker is saying could be in the same room with somebody who is bored out of their gourd. I wondered if I ever sound like this.
So why did I stay you ask? I had placed myself near to the door as a contingency plan for this exact scenario. Realizing that this could happen I had a plan in place, I decided that if the presentation were in one of the hundreds of languages that I do not understand I would wait for that instant of darkness between slides and bolt for the door, Houdini!
So what happened…oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the director introduced me before the keynote speaker. Again in a language I do not speak, but with a hand extended in my direction he mentioned my name said something about America, physicist, teacher, and welcome. This was followed by a round of applause and I was unsure if I should clap along or stand up with a couple of peace signs, safer to just sit and blush. So what were they taking pictures of in the beginning of the presentation? Me, of course, should look great in the new Rajkot community center flyer. When the lights came on my neighbor made the great escape and has been avoiding me ever since. I wasn’t that far behind her. Good grief.