Coordinates

In this world, you need four coordinates to get someplace: x, y, z, and time. Since most of us see at least (but hopefully only) our local world as flat, we only need three coordinates. In college, these three coordinates are building, room number, and time. If you’re missing either of these, you’ll probably have trouble making it to class.

I saw this play out several times this semester already. A few days ago a short boy with a big book bag and a clueless but disturbingly composed look on his face walked into our organic chemistry (Chem 210H) class several minutes into methane’s sp3 hybridization. A few glances at the board, the class, and the professor later, he asked, “Is this Chem 110?” Add 100, said the professor; and See you next year. Apparently the poor kid (who is probably older than me and a legal adult, and yet I call him kid) had forgotten his schedule.

A similar thing happened in my Star Trek ethics class, twice. A few minutes into our discussion of our names, home planets, and favorite Star Trek characters, a peculiar boy (peculiar in this case being normal, an apparently foreign characteristic in a Star Trek ethics class) walked in, confidently swinging his book bag from his shoulder onto a desk and bending down to take a seat. Just as he was pulling a chair out, the professor paused our discussion.

“Are you here for Ethics of Star Trek?”

Suddenly all confidence vanished. The boy glanced first at the professor, then at us, then at our Trekkie name tags, and finally back at the professor.

“No.”

“Would you like to stay?”

Another nervous glance. “No.”

And he was gone.

The second time probably had less to do with forgetting schedules and more to do with the low Trekker density at Penn State. Toward the end of our class another confident-looking boy walked in and sat down. No, he was not here to learn about the moral dilemmas that Captain Picard faced at Farpoint, but he was early for his next class, which was also in this room. He would stay and wait.

Two minutes later, he got up and left.

I don’t understand how you can forget your schedule and hope to make it to class. When I’m feeling lucky I press that cool button on Google search, or I do biology research, or I apply to college. All of these things have at least a 10% probability of a preferable outcome. When it comes to guessing any one of the three coordinates you need for getting to class—or, goodness forbid, several of the coordinates—the chances of you making it to class on time (or at all) are very, very, very slim.

Of course, I’m not one to talk—though apparently I am pretty lucky (knock on wood). When I showed up to my Wednesday night programming class, the professor was explaining the syllabus of some business management course. I had a sneaking suspicion that I was not in the right room of the right building at the right time (or that we were going to program a syllabus). Apparently I actually had computer science on Monday nights, and I’d already skipped the first lecture. Luckily, so had the professor. Funny how things work out.

And then yesterday I showed up to organic chemistry seven minutes late. I’m not very punctual, but I’m not usually seven minutes late. Luckily, the professor was eight minutes late. Funny how things work out.

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~ by science cow on September 3, 2009.

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