I was sitting in Au Bon Pain today (better known by Americans as “ABP” because French is hard), when a middle aged man sat down with a college-aged man and began speaking very loudly. I was pretty upset at this because 1) I was already kind of pissed off because my “hazelnut” coffee tasted more like stewed corn, 2) I was doubly upset because that’s not the first time I’ve had coffee that tasted like that and 3) I was trying to read, and while a buzz of noise is conducive to reading, one guy loudly spewing his thoughts all over my ear drums is most definitely not.
I was doing my best to tune out this pompous-ass, rude, and clearly horrible man (because if you’re going to talk at inappropriate decibels, I’m going to insult you as much as I possibly can), but then some of his words started to register with me. I heard terms like “peptide” and “cross-reactivity,” and “MHC” and “conserved residues.” As someone who majored in biochemistry, I know those words very well. All at once, my pompous-ass, rude, and clearly horrible ego reared its head.
Here’s the thing about people who have pompous-ass egos like I do. If we know something we perceive as intellectual, we have this need for everyone around us who also knows this potentially intellectual thing to know that we know this intellectual thing too. (How’s that for an intellectual explanation?). Basically, it’s cool that you know it, but isn’t it even cooler that I know it too? Recognize that I am smart!!!! So once my interest was piqued, I began to eavesdrop in earnest. I kept imagining how I was going to interrupt them just before they were leaving and make an intelligent comment on their conversation. That would lead to me getting employed on the spot because my brilliance would be obvious. Obviously. And then they would know that I totally understood everything they were talking about, and that was the whole point anyway.
I began to pick up more and more of the conversation, gaining more context about the relationship between these two men. I could tell that the louder man was a professor telling the younger man about his research. I also deduced that the younger man was pretending to be awestruck, but clearly was just doing that thing where you butter up a professor so that you can then work in his/her lab and then use him/her for letters of recommendation until both of you are dead (unless you need letters of rec in whatever comes after death in which case–until the end of time).
Then I started to get pretty jealous because I’ve kind of lost contact with the professors with whom I’ve played that game, and have I lost all hope of getting a job?? What did this guy have that I didn’t?? So of course I started comparing myself to this poor fellow who literally didn’t know I existed because his back was to me. I judged his questions (obviously, I could’ve asked better ones); I judged the way he acted really enthusiastic about everything the professor was saying (I could’ve done it in a way that seemed more genuine); I judged the way that he was understanding what the professor was saying (obviously I understood way better because I’m way more brillianter than this random kid). Yeah, things started to get pretty ugly.
Then, they got up to leave, and my opportunity to hijack the professor’s attention presented itself: the professor had left his jacket!! I made a sudden movement to grab it and run after them, my heart pounding with anticipation of the brilliantly brilliant 30-second conversation I was about to have with this stranger. But as I was planning this out, they returned, he grabbed his jacket, and I watched my dreams fade with them while I changed my direction mid-lunge to my overcooked corn/coffee.
To cheer myself up, I looked this guy up on the internet (because if you can’t join ’em, stalk ’em). Since I was near a university, I figured he probably ran a lab there. I looked up faculty members by their research and actually managed to find him. Then when I eventually hunt him down, he’ll realize that I’m also brilliant at deduction and that will lead to….
Brb while I throw my ego off a cliff.