Wednesday, November 7, 2007

First Impressions

We all know that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Looks can be deceiving and all that. Here is one example from my own life.

It was my freshman year at Caltech, and all of us frosh were going through rotation. In my rounds, i occasionally noticed a particular freshman who struck me as rather odd. i need to clarify something here. All of the students at Caltech can be referred to as odd (unless a few slip by the admissions office). We are a strange bunch, full of equations and witticisms founded in differential equations and quantum mechanics. A good portion of the students have poor personal hygiene and are not the best in social situations. So, when i say someone struck me as odd, that is from the frame of mind where the aforementioned is normal. This classmate seemed to be something else entirely. In fact, he seemed to be trying to stick out. i'm a little fuzzy on the exact details, but i seem to remember a name tag identifying him as a reporter or private eye from some 40's movie (Sam Spade?).

So, i had noticed him a few times. Rotation ended, and all us frosh were picked into the various houses. Well, it turned out that this guy was going to be a mole, same as me! And there he stood, as we all played in the flooded courtyard, in his slacks and t-shirt and sunglasses, trying to avoid getting wet (at least at first). i must admit, though, that was a significant change from his normal garb - the omnipresent trench coat and fedora. i mean, come on, who is this guy trying to be?

It turns out that he was just being himself - all that stuff is just part of the package. In the coming years, i actually got to know him, and he's one of the most interesting people you will ever meet. He loves math and numbers, but he's also a connoisseur of literature and video games and movies. He's always good for a rousing conversation on any subject. He's also one of the most caring people i know and values his friends highly. Thank you, Tim, for letting me get to know you and getting to know me. i'm very thankful for your friendship. i'd go on, but i'm pretty sure this post has gotten sappy enough already.

There you have it. Next time you happen across a guy in a trench coat and fedora... try to avoid eye contact - he might decide that you're his next victim. But really, i often need to be reminded that people don't fit in the boxes i have all prepared for them. i also need to be reminded that it's ok to be myself, even if i'm odd and quirky.

(For the record, Tim's hat and coat are much more Humphrey Bogart than The Matrix)

Sorry, Tim, if i totally butchered all the details of rotation week. That is how i remember it, but it may be totally different than what actually happened. i would not swear to any of it (except the hat and coat, of course).

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