Friday, June 03, 2005

My Classmate

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.

10 Comments:

At June 05, 2005 2:15 PM, Blogger Kat said...

once my sociology prof told a story about going to a strip club "to do research" (yeah right) and one of the strippers said, "hey dr. anonymous, i took your class last summer! remember me?" heh.

 
At June 05, 2005 4:23 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

Great post, David. Many a woman has put herself through school or raised her kids the same way as Cody. Use what you got, y'know?

It is said that the number one fear, overall, is public speaking. (On surveys, it usually ranks above death!) This story certainly speaks to that!

 
At June 05, 2005 5:18 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

- kathryn -
"one of the strippers," plural? Where was this? Oh, but it was a sociology course, so that does not surprise me. How about your computer science classes? I doubt that you saw any and that is what makes this story so different.

- l-girl -
I remember seeing that survey in my textbook for public speech. But is being naked in front of people one of the choices in the survey? :) I know for some people, it's a wish, not a fear.

 
At June 06, 2005 8:05 AM, Blogger Kat said...

david i never took a comp sci class. i have a soc degree and i am working on a soc master's. everything i know about computers i learned on the job.

 
At June 06, 2005 12:22 PM, Blogger Just Rannin' Around said...

Well everyone that knows me already realizes that I am a bit crazy...but I LOVE public speaking. As a matter of fact I love it so much that I was insane enough to obtain a college degree in it. That's right my degree is in Communication, Public Speaking. I honestly look for any opportunity possible. Just sayin'...not everyone would rather die!

 
At June 06, 2005 9:54 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

That's pretty impressive, kat. I've seen a lot of computer science majors flop in software development, so I guess it's either you have it or you don't. Plus you can communicate complex problems better than most people with degrees in computer science. We tend to me more one dimentional.

Been entertaining the idea of going back to school in a field that is 100% different from what I do.

 
At June 07, 2005 8:36 AM, Blogger Max said...

As with anything we do in life, proficiency comes with repetition. I never enjoyed having to give a presentation or speak publicly, but have found as time goes on it becomes easier.

 
At June 08, 2005 2:37 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

I also enjoy public speaking. I just didn't want to sound like I was bragging. :)

 
At June 10, 2005 4:21 PM, Blogger Marcus Delhimi said...

I really don't understand strip clubs. Aside from the moral implications and various church opinions, it doesn't make sense to me. Neither does porn.

Why would I pay someone else to make me any more hot and bothered than I already am?

 
At June 17, 2005 7:29 AM, Blogger American Girl said...

I watched an old interview from Inside the Actors Studio recently featuring Renee Zellweger. One of the things they discussed was how she worked at a topless bar as a cocktail waitress. She needed the money to help put her through college, but she never removed her clothing while working there. She said that she learned just as much while working there as she did in her classes. She said she learned that good isn't defined as black & white as we think and that she learned to be less judgemental. After watching the show I thought about your post. I think there is more to every situation. Others might make decisions that we never would have made, but that doesn't mean that the person is bad or unmoral. Sometimes ignorance is a key factor and sometimes it isn't.

 

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