Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bus Stop Physics

So yesterday I was waiting at the bus stop, but not for the bus. Long story. (And no, it doesn't involve anything illicit.)

And a guy walked up to me. Young, sorta, for lack of a better term, "gangsta." I was rather hoping, in my apparently vulnerable position as a young female standing on a busy road by herself, that he would not try to talk to me, but of course he said hello and offered his hand.

I went through the options. Ignore him like you're supposed to if you're a young vulnerable female and a strange male talks to you in a way you don't like? Walk away? Reach for the mace? Well, he was in-so-far not being too aggressive, and damn if it I don't prefer friendliness, when friendliness is warranted.

"Hello," I responded, warily, because wary is how young females standing on a busy street are supposed to be. Maybe he was just waiting at the bus stop and wanted somebody to talk to.

He started asking me a lot of personal questions, which raised my wariness factor and which I responded only minimally to. When he got to "what high school do you go to," I saw my chance.

"I just graduated college," I told him, keeping all escape routes in mind, fingering the trigger of the LifeAct pepper spray in my pocket. Guy on the mack for a high school girl? Busted. Wait, do I really look like I'm in high school?

"Oh yeah, what's your major?" he asked.

This is when I couldn't help but grin.

"Physics," I said, knowing, from experience, that at this point people either a) politely excuse themselves or b) act amazed and surprised, and then politely excuse themselves. Hopefully even guys on the mack for a high school girl.

"Physics!" he exclaimed, the way people do when you tell them that. "That sounds really hard!"

Those of you who might have also majored in physics know he was speaking a true statement. But at this point, perhaps because my ride was approaching and I felt less vulnerable, I couldn't help but dive into it.

"It is hard," I said, "but not like people think. It's one of those things that looks hard from the outside, but is a lot more accessible when you take it step by step. You're building a mental process, which seems unattainable when you're just looking at the result. It's cool, and if you try it you'll be surprised at yourself by what you can learn."

"Yeah," the guy said, and I was able to politely excuse myself.

The point of this being, I really believe that about physics. You can take that with a grain of salt because I haven't gone grad school yet, and yes, even undergraduate physics is hard. But just like anything worthwhile, it's the kind of hard that builds, that you build yourself up to one level at a time, the journey as much as the destination. Sure, it requires a certain level of ability. But a lot of people might find they have that if they didn't let themselves think "wow, that's way too hard, I can't do that."

Also, the power of a Physics Degree as unwanted-attention-repellent should not be underrated.

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