Week Two: Reading Between the Lines

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Sunday, June 9, 2019


Megan Anderson

The metro feels a lot like life right now—always moving, with everyday experiences blurring into patterns. As I begin to feel settled, I don’t have to pay quite so much attention to the map or the announcements.

I can read between the lines.

I spent ten hours commuting to and from work this past week, and I'm spending this post sharing ten of my reflections with you.

Reading on the metro

  1. The escalator doesn’t keep pace with life. You find yourself drawn toward the left side, walking along with the ride. Some might blame this on busyness, but I suspect it’s a quiet rebellion. We order our days around train timetables and bus schedules. We hold tightly to every bit of control we have left.
  2. In a sea of conflicting styles, you’ll notice that most people share the same metro mask. It’s a combination of focus and boredom, inviting no attention and asking only for anonymity. I’ve been working on mine, setting aside the Midwestern friendliness I grew up accepting as normal. Some people don’t understand this game. My favorite was the three-year-old sitting in the seat in front of me on Thursday. She squirmed, steeling glances at every person she could spot. We exchanged a smile and it escalated to silly faces. The only time she hid her face was during peek-a-boo. She giggled. I felt less foreign.
  3. When traveling during peak times, do not wait until your stop to find the door. The sweet spot is making your way to the door right after people have exited the train at the stop before yours. This way you minimize the annoyance of others on the train and you avoid a stressful adrenaline rush.
  4. You’ll notice a variety of stances on a train. The safest plan is a ballet second position or fourth position, both triangular bases that will be strong enough to keep you upright yet flexible enough to adjust for the train’s acceleration and deceleration. Also, keep one hand holding one of the metal bars. You could try to be “cool” and keep both hands on your phone or in your pockets, but who really wants to risk falling down in public?  
  5. If you find yourself near College Park, you should stop by the Niels Bohr Library and Archives. It is open to the public, holds several incredibly famous books, and has absolutely lovely people. I knew I would like them from the minute they popped popcorn for us at their staff meeting, and they are always helpful when I pop by with questions.
  6. Pay attention to the people behind papers; this is the good part. As I’ve been researching and writing biographies for some very accomplished rheologists, I have seen entropy in action, scattering individuals into random accomplishments and various titles. As I condense each life onto a page, I see interests and immigration and industry shape a whole field of academic study. There is power in the story.
  7. You should be warned before going into an “acroyoga” class that you are embarking on an extended trust-fall exercise. Jackie (another SPS intern) and I did not realize this before we showed up, and we came out an hour and a half later with a new bond. . . and a renewed dedication to more typical yoga classes. It’s been nice feeling like an active person rather than just a person with an active mind.
  8. If you join our intern group for any sort of outing or night in, you’ll soon find yourself in the crossfire of endless jokes amidst topics such as plastic straws, the habitability of Mars, and the utility of eating ice cream. These people are amazing as individuals and absolutely delightful as a group. Friday evening started with burgers at a place down the street, turned into card games and silliness in the dorm, and ended with a midnight run to Captain Cookie. One of the interns brought a friend along, and the friend sat back part of the way through dinner and said, “I am just really impressed by how well you all banter.” These physics people are so much phun.
  9. Two mini sofas are not enough seating for 10+ people watching a movie. Two mini sofas with three twin mattresses squeezed around them, on the other hand, work out very well. It’s like a life-sized puzzle you get to do before the evening’s main entertainment has even begun! Bonus points if one of your fellow interns brings a DVD.
  10. If you find yourself packed into a living room with your fellow interns watching The Parent Trap on a Saturday night, enjoying each other’s commentary and hearing a couple of them quote certain lines, you might just realize that you’re surrounded by friends. The exact moment the friendships formed is blurry, but the realization is reassuring. You’re moving in the right direction.

 Group dinner

Thank you for stopping by to read this. 

Megan Anderson