This story is from my days as a graduate student pursuing a Master's degree in computer engineering. Please hold your yawns until the end. I'm not done yet.
The days in the wilderness of datelessness and barrenness which saw my nose buried in textbooks and research papers were punctuated by the deplorable demographic makeup of the engineering student population in which males outnumbered females by roughly 10 to 1. None of the female classmates ever captivated my heart and imagination the way the TCP/IP Protocol and binary search algorithms did, and I am sure the feelings were quite mutual.
That was until the first day of the semester in the Advanced Operating Systems class held in room 311 in the engineering building at seven PM on Tuesday, January the twenty seventh in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred ninety eight. Here walked into the classroom a tall, shapely blonde bombshell literally exuding glitters. No, I didn't pay that much attention to her. Of course not.
Let's call her Cody. I named her Cody because she could write C++/Java code better than anyone that I knew. Cody...code...get it? You may let loose your yawns now. I know it's not even worthy of a groan for most healthy and normal people, but I still think it's clever, so excuse me while I giggle.
Cody was a very nice person. She was very friendly, approachable, and bright. The class was difficult, but she was one of the few who asked very good questions and contributed intelligent comments which spiced up the otherwise very boring atmosphere.
One evening after a very difficult midterm exam, we wound up in the same elevator. Of course I didn't miss the chance to strike a conversation which she was very receptive to as usual.
Cody: Oh that was such a hard test. How did you do?
me: It was hard.
Cody: You know we should start studying together and help each other out.
I took a deep breath.
me: What a great idea!
Cody: How about Tuesdays at one at the library
me: Umm, well, I have a full time job. Weekends are better for me.
Cody: I work on weekends.
me: We can do it after work.
Cody: I work till 2 in the morning.
me: (Jokingly) What do you to? Work as a security guard?
Cody: No, I work at the Gentlemen's club in the Valley. I'm an exotic dancer.
She. Said. That. So. As-a-matter-of-factly.
The aftermath was a total train wreck. I never acknowledged her response to my question. Instead, my mouth went into a maniacal frenzy while my head was spinning out of control trying to process the new information I had been ambushed by.
me: "You know Cody, one of the biggest breakthroughs in computer science is when Courtois and Parnas proposed two algorithms that allowed concurrent access while ensuring that writes are exclusive. This proved to be revolutionary in building hashtables and provided impetus for Dijkstra in solving the dilemma related to mutual exclusion blah blah blah blah......"
The rest of the evening was a blur and I have no idea how I made it home safely.
Since then, I rarely got to talk to her other than exchanging light pleasantries in the hallway. It was not necessarily because of the morality of her profession and my disapproval of it, but because I was afraid of another episode of epilepsy characterized by a complete disconnect between my mouth and brain. I hate having to talk while dragging my jaw off the floor. But at work and in social functions, I could not stop talking about her. Even talked to strangers about her at the local burrito stand.
The semester eventually came to an end and we were assigned a term project which called for a 20 page paper and a 5 minute presentation. It was pretty typical. On the day we were scheduled to give presentations, I ran into her in the same elevator where the legendary conversation had taken place a few weeks back. This time, all gone was her bubbly demeanor, and she looked visibly distressed.
me: Hi Cody, how are you?
Cody: Umm..not good.
me: What's the matter.
Cody: The project is killing me.
me: Why? Is the paper difficult to write?
Cody: No, the paper is all done. Got that done almost a week ago.
me: (cocking my head to the side, scratching my head) ????
Cody: It's the presentation.
me: What about it?
Here is what she said. Are you ready?
"I have the biggest fear of speaking in front of people."
After giving my presentation, I quietly excused myself before she gave hers. I thought it'd be a prudent and compassionate thing to reduce the size of her audience and help alleviate her jitters.
Never saw her again.
Never got to find out how she managed to do all these other things in front of people while public speaking remained her biggest fear.