I was selected for random screening and apologized to the woman who was going to have to carry my bag. It’s full of books, I tried to warn her. And she was shocked anyway. At how heavy.

Earlier this week I had an upper GI series done and spent three hours in the hospital drinking barium and lying in unpredictable contortions for periods of ten minutes while a technician told me how tragic it was that Palin had lost the election for McCain. The radiologist, a short, white man in his sixties with enormous glasses and enormous hands, kneaded my body unapologetically, sweeping closer and closer to my face with his thick, brown and gray toupee. As I stood waiting the technician warned me that the cup of barium would be heavy. I tried to tell her I knew it would be heavy. She didn’t think I could possibly imagine How Heavy.

“What do you study?” Each woman asked me. At the airport, as soon as I had been selected for special screening, a young man ran over and offered to perform the search. Uh-huh. She raised her eyebrow critically at him and I was immediately endeared. “Religion.” I told her and she asked me if I found that kind of thing interesting while Brian told me about how he goes off-roading a lot. She asked and so I told her, “I was raised Episcopalian,” and she wanted to know if that was still my thing. She, too, was raised Episcopalian but couldn’t get down with any religion in which serving god as a woman meant becoming a nun. Brian asked me if my boots were worn because I was a horse-back rider and told me that sometimes he goes hiking, “…like, if I’ve been off-roading for a while and I just need a break.”

I tried to do this all the night before. Fly, I mean. I got to ride to the airport and I got to wait in line but I didn’t get to do security or, you know, arrive at my destination. I joined the end of the “Bag Drop” line behind two HBS Brians. I know they were HBS guys because some kind of logo-happy fleece factory had exploded all over their torsosluggagecapsfaces and also because they were having their conversations sideways and loudly. They were turned half toward me, maintaining a minimum of eye contact with each other, and boasting loudly about things they already knew about each other. Like how many offers and which they were going to accept. Soon, Third Brian walked over to chastise his friends for stupidly waiting in line, “you should ditch this line and go check in curbside. Seriously. It’s way smarter.”

“We can’t,” they told him. They had already gotten their boarding passes.
Undeterred by information, he continued loudly, “No. Leave the line and go do this outside. It’s quicker. Much more efficient.”
They explained. He restated. They explained. He restated. Until we had advanced at least four or five feet in line and I had also had a chance to hear about Third Brians offers and which HE was going to accept.

Then he turns to me, “Oh. By the way, I’m not butting in line here. I already checked in outside. I’m just waiting with my friends.”

No shit.
“No shit,”
“I heard you telling your friends. They checked in here. You checked in there. Your way was more efficient and now they are stuck here. I got it. We’re all up-to-date.”

Third Brian wonders how I could possibly have heard the conversation he had enacted for my benefit.

Finally, on the plane, I overhear a conversation between the people behind me. One, a young Texana woman and one an white man, presumably in his mid-50s.
Brian: “You in school?”
Woman: “Yes”
Brian: “Taking a long party weekend?”
Woman: “No. My grandfather died. I’m going home for his funeral.”
Brian [undeterred and still smarmy]: “Oh. So you decided to leave home for school instead of staying in Austin? You don’t like Austin.”
Woman: “I do. But I decided to go in Boston. I might come back for law school.”
Brian: “Oh? You got in?”
Woman: “Not yet. But, it would be an option.”
Brian: “Yeah. IF you get in. Better see how that works out first.”
Woman: “Right.”
Brian: “So what school do you go to?”
Woman: “Harvard.”
Brian [pauses]: “Oh. Yeah, my daughter goes to NYU. What do you study?”
Woman: “Literature and politics.”
Brian: “My daughter is trying to do English. I am trying to get her to do something more practical– something she can actually get a job with. Not waste her time with something like English.”
Woman [pauses. I crane around in my seat and make eye contact with her and raise my eyebrows at Brian. She grins back at me and answers him chuckling]: “I just figure the best way to get into law school is to really excel and it will help to have a strong background in literature and politics.”


Title lifted from Chapter 4 of Research Design and Statistical Analysis.
Brian: “Yeah. I guess that’s the argument.  Well, we’ll see, won’t we.”