Sunday, September 30, 2007
Said the Moth to the Flame
I'm still thinking of going to LA to tell a story. The theme is "Blunders", and I think this will be the story I will tell:
The second day of my freshman year, I went to class starting with my 8am Chemistry class. I had my pens, hi-liters, notebooks and text books--all of which I carried on my back like an overloaded snail. By three o'clock, I was feeling good about myself, cautiously optimistic as I walked into my biology lecture hall, along with about 200 other students. It was mostly an introduction session listing the professors, the TAs and the resources available to anal retentive pre-med freshmen. At the end of the lecture, Dr. H mentioned that the lecture notes would be available as tutorials at the brand new computer center down the hall.
I went to the brand new computer center, to find an empty room with rows of computers and a harried man untangling wires as he balanced some books on his lap. I went to him, introduced myself and whispered, "I've never used a computer before. Could you help me?"
I'm not sure why I started whispering, but it seemed to annoy him. "Just pick up the mouse and play around with it a little. You'll figure it out."
I stood there looking at him, and then looking around the room. I wasn't sure why I would have to play with a mouse.
"Ha ha, I guess they got away. Good thing, since I don't like mice! How do I get started on the computer again?"
I'm pretty sure if someone had this conversation with you, with an American accent and a perfectly straight face--you'd think they're being a smart ass. He did, and it seemed to annoy him more.
"Listen, I don't have time for your jokes. Just sit at a computer and click the mouse. You'll figure it out."
I sat in front of a computer at the end of one of the rows, pretty sure I'd break it and get expelled from university during the first week of classes. Then I'd have to move back to Iran, listen to all the jokes of how I couldn't even stay in a university in America--where any bum can get in...I was about to cry. I was timidly hitting random keys and NOT reading the recommended tutorials, when suddenly a page popped up asking my name.
I looked around, and saw Angry Guy paging through one of the books. He was right, it wouldn't let me do anything to break it, the computer was helping me!
"Excuse me, should I be answering the questions?"
"Yeah, you're fine."
So I carefully entered my full name. I also provided my detailed address, class schedule and student status when asked. But the next two questions practically made me jump out of my chair.
"Are you Iranian?"
"Haaleh shoma chetoreh?"
"OH MY GOD! The computer is speaking to me in FARSI!"
Angry Guy couldn't ignore me any more, "What are you talking about? Computers don't talk. Someone at another computer station is chatting with you."
"But it spoke to me in FARSI! No one around here speaks Farsi."
And that's when a couple of Iranian looking guys jumped up from behind a computer in the furthest corner of the room, "It's us! We're Iranian! Sallam!!"
I couldn't collect my things fast enough. I was grabbing my notebook and pens, trying to get away as fast as I could, when they came over and tried to talk. One was a short guy with overly gelled hair and clothes that didn't fit him well. The other was a tall, lanky guy, too easy in his skin and a huge smile on his face. He was mighty proud of himself.
"Want to grab dinner? Do you have any friends? How long have you been in the States?"
I didn't answer any of the questions, just called out, "I'm sorry, I have to go. Bye," as I tried to run far, far away. As I ran, I looked over my shoulder to make sure they weren't following me. Of course, it wouldn't have mattered, considering how I had given them my dorm name, address and room number. "They won't look for me. I'll never see them again. They'll forget about this. They're guys, they won't tell anyone."
I was wrong, again. I saw them twice a day, every other day in my biology and chemistry classes for two semesters. Had I not been running away from them so quickly, I would have recognized the short guy as the overly zealous guy in my chemistry lab. They were premed, always with a pack of competitive Iranian premed students who eventually learned about what had happened. They only strengthened my resolve to avoid the Iranians on campus like the plague.
That didn't happen either. The tall lanky guy was determined to befriend me. He was a patient fellow; he stopped trying to talk to me for almost two semesters, but eventually his niceness got me talk to him. We studied together, hung out, exchanged emails when he moved away and spent long hours talking about life, family and dreams.
I'm glad he didn't give up, because today he's one of my dearest friends.