My table at the Flushing Library was missing a chair, and a rather disgruntled-looking lady was looking for somewhere to sit. When she saw that the next table had an extra seat, she decided to confront its occupant.
Angry Lady: That’s my seat.
Occupant [disengaging earbuds]: What?
Angry Lady: You took that chair from my table.
Occupant: I don’t understand. You’re saying that my seat belongs somewhere else?
Angry Lady [pointing at her table]: It’s obvious! Now put it back, please.
Occupant: Oh… if it would make you feel better, I could move over.
Angry Lady: …
Occupant: I don’t really mind where I’m sitting, but I don’t know why you’re upset about it.
Angry Lady: …
Fortunately, a library employee brought another chair, and everyone was satisfied.
I noticed someone staring really hard at me halfway through anatomy lab, so I asked if she needed help. “No, no, just stay where you are,” she protested.
Classmate: Sometimes when I look at you, I undress you in my mind.
Me: Oh alright, I’ll just sit around and look pretty.
Classmate: And then I’d peel off your skin, scrape off the fat, and reflect all the muscles layer by layer until I see your skeleton.
A bunch of people and I were filing into an elevator at the end of the day when I heard one of them ask, “Have you seen True Blood?” “No,” said his companion.
Dude: Well in True Blood there’s this girl who has to cut up a body and get rid of it.
Dude: Last night I dreamed that I had a backpack full of body parts.
Companion: It happens. Last night I dreamed that I killed someone.
Dude: I was all like, “ugh, all these legs and stuff, what do I do with them before someone catches me?”
While we were eying them in silence, somebody said, “Last night I made a baby.” “Why, congratulations!” was the consensus. He clarified, “No, I mean I got someone pregnant and then two hours later I had a baby. I thought, ‘whoa, what an improvement!’”
I hope it was just a case of pre-thesis-defense jitters.
I was just on the checkout line at Morton Williams when the guy in front of me greeted a passing woman. She turned around, gave the guy a really surprised look, and exclaimed,
Oh my gosh, you know my name! None of the other guys I had sex with remember my name.
On the way to class I passed by a confused-looking male who was besieged by a group of girls. “What’s goin’ on?” he asked.
Girl: We need a boyfriend.
Guy: Wait, what?
Girl: We need a boyfriend, now.
Guy: I don’t understand; I can’t be your boyfriend.
Girl: Why not? You look single.
Guy: Uh, yeah… but there’re so many of you.
Girl: Yeah, so?
The guy happened to look my way for a second, so I could not help winking and giving him a thumbs-up.
Girl: See! This guy agrees.
Guy: Okay, okay, I get it; there’s plenty of me to go ’round.
As hilarity ensued, I found my way into molecular biology class.
Quotables are usually textual, but this one’s too good to pass up:
West Broadway and 113rd Street
On my way back from a molecular biology review session, I ran into a peculiar fellow using a public Columbia computing terminal. He had a shell session going and was working on a bit of HTML. This was the first time I have ever seen somebody hacking away at a public terminal here and I was pretty impressed… until I recognized him by the shabby clothing, untidy hair, and abundance of personal belongings at his side.
Me: Hey, didn’t I see you on Broadway last week, and didn’t I give you a dollar? Who…?
Guy [turning slowly]: I believe you did, thank you very much. I remember every dollar these days. I got this great web hosting package for just 99 cents a month, see?
Me: That’s quite an impressive bit of work you’ve got there. Where did you learn web design?
Guy: As a kid… I’d always loved this stuff. It’s easy and natural to me.
Me: So why don’t you have a job?
Guy: Oh, I had a job. I had a college education and I had a nice apartment. But fuck that. You know what I mean?
Me: No… I don’t.
Guy: Aww, come on. A Columbia student like you can’t see how fucked up this society is? I mean, the government sucks, the economy sucks, everything sucks. We live in an illusion of freedom and all y’all idiots are still celebrating your false liberty. Don’t you see? We’re all fucked. There’s no hope!
Me: So you wanted out? This can’t be the only way…
Guy: Damn straight. At least your wonderful society gave me the freedom to get out. And you know what? It’s been great.
Me: How long has it been?
Guy: Ha, been out of the system for almost five years now. I’ve moved a few times, but I figured that I’d have a permanent homepage so my old pals could still find me if they cared. It’s good that your libraries and schools still let me use the computers, ’cause it’s the only thing keeping me sane in this fucked up world.
Me: Have your old pals looked for you?
Guy [sighing]: No. Fuck friends, I ain’t got any. Say, why aren’t you studying?
Me: How did you know I’ve exams?
Guy: It’s all these young ones’d talk about around here these days. Me, I don’t need company. Go on. Go on.
Part of going to school in the City is about meeting all sorts of interesting people.
This semester of physical chemistry deals with quantum chemistry, so naturally we discussed some of the philosophical aspects of science. My professor said that nobody really understands quantum mechanics…
Professor: … even Feynman said so in his famous lecture. It has also been said that “if you are not completely confused by quantum mechanics, you do not understand it.” (Wheeler)
Me: Surely, Feynman understood the technical aspects of quantum mechanics; what he didn’t understand was the metaphysics. But that has an explanation so simple and so elegant that not even science could express it.
Professor: And how would you explain it?
Me: Floating point numbers have a large but limited dynamic range. When we approach the extremely large or the infinitesimally small, we run into problems. Quantum mechanics is simply an out-of-bounds error in God’s pocket calculator of the universe.
Professor: Of course you are free to speculate about these things, but when we’re in a science classroom…
Me: … we talk about science. On the astronomical scale, we have anomalies such as dark matter. On the subatomic scale, we have quantization of time, space, matter, energy, and everything. These are clearly manifestations of an inability to represent the very large or the very small…
… perhaps when God designs version 2.0 of His universal software He’d use bignums instead of floats. Now wouldn’t that make the world a better place?
I bumped into a former classmate from middle school yesterday. We talked about what we did after graduating… then he started asking some interesting questions.
Dude: You’re telling me you’re studying biochem? Whoa, that’s interesting.
Me: How come?
Dude: Well, I’ve been writing quite a bit lately. Mostly detective stories, you know.
Me: I love detective stories.
Dude: Yeah well, I was wondering if you could help me. Know any good ways of killing someone? Like a poison, maybe.
Me: I don’t exactly study this stuff, but we were talking about arsenic and cyanide poisoning in class the other day.
Dude: Oh, those are classic. How do they work?
Me: Well, arsenic inhibits some important enzymes in the aerobic respiration pathway. It also affects the oxidative parts of some other pathways, which backs them up and keeps them from working. Cyanide works sort of like arsenic in that it affects energy metabolism, but it’s more acute; it binds to cytochrome oxidase in mitochondria and blocks aerobic respiration. Basically, it keeps cells from using oxygen and suffocates them.
[I explain in a lot more detail.]
Dude: Ah, now that’s all very interesting, but how would you actually use these?
Me: Erm… I’ve heard of people getting sick from drinking arsenic-contaminated water. But cyanide can be used as hydrogen cyanide gas or cyanide salts.
Dude: Awesome! I might have to call you up later for details… but I’ve a quick question for you. Do you know where one could obtain arsenic or cyanide in a place like New York City?
Me: … erm… I gotta go to class…
[I retreat into the nearest convenient lecture building.]
Dude: Hey! What’s your phone number?
On Broadway and 116th Street…
Woman A: Hey where d’ya get your ears pierced? I’d like to get mine pierced.
Woman B: There might be a place nearby… but are you sure?
Woman A: Yeah, I found these adorable earrings online and…
[B removes her earring, grabs A by the earlobe, and punches the blunt needle through in one fluid stroke.]
Woman A: … hey, wait, what?
Woman B: It’s done. Now turn around.
Woman A: … ow! Whoa, thanks.