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Some Coaches Are More Hands-On Than Others

, , , , , | Friendly | October 11, 2021

One fall Friday, I took my two-year-old Dalmatian — named Coach, for obvious reasons — to watch my seventeen-year-old son’s football team play another local team. The game was played in the afternoon, so Coach and I easily found first-row bleacher seats near midfield. My son was a defensive back, and with constant player substitutions, I sometimes had trouble figuring out where he was on the field, but not Coach.

In the game’s third quarter, [Son] fielded a punt and started to run upfield before being gang-tackled by opposing team members. Suddenly, Coach pulled the leash from my hand and ran onto the field, literally jumping on top of the pile of players and growling and ferociously protecting [Son]. For a few short moments, it was pure bedlam, with players disentangling from the pile and retreating more quickly than most had probably ever run before on a football field.

I ran, too, straight onto the field, yelling Coach’s name as loudly as I could — confusing all the real team coaches, I am sure. I grabbed the leash and walked the dog back to our bleacher row seat. No one was hurt, thankfully, but a few minutes later, the referee blew his whistle to stop the game and came over to our sideline seats.

Referee: “Mister, you are going to have to move the dog. The other team is afraid to run to your side of the field.”

We watched the rest of the game from the other side of the field, and while it didn’t happen, I truly believe if my son had tried to return another punt, he could have walked the whole way untouched.

There’s Snow Way That’s A Good Idea

, , , , , , , | Learning | September 24, 2021

Every year, my graduate program brings in a crop of new potential students for an “interview weekend.” Knowing that these students are visiting other schools as well, we try to make sure that they not only learn about the program but also have a good time.

One year, we book a banquet hall for a nice dinner on the last night of the interview weekend. It’s a fancy catered meal with current students, potential students, and professors. This particular banquet hall happens to be attached to a major league baseball stadium, though it’s not currently baseball season. From the windows of the hall, we can see the empty field covered in snow while we eat dinner.

[Professor] is the youngest professor in the department, and though he’s a nice guy, he’s constantly trying to show the students that he’s the “cool” professor. After dinner ends, he stands up and taps on his glass for everyone’s attention.

Professor: “I hear there’s been some interest in going down onto the field to run the bases at [Stadium].”

Students: “Yaaaay!”

Professor: “Well, I asked if we could, and they said we can’t.”

Students: “Awww.”

Professor: “But WHO WANTS TO DO IT ANYWAY?!”

He stood up. Immediately, about fifty students stood up, as well, and followed him out into the hall. Admittedly, I was one of them. Hey, if a professor is leading the charge, he’d be the one to get in trouble, right?

He led us on a march through hallways, down stairs, and through doors. At some point, I think we crossed a sky bridge from the banquet hall into the stadium itself, which I had assumed would be locked in some way, but it wasn’t.

During our march, a few of us got cold feet — a passing custodian warned us that we’d get arrested — so we positioned ourselves where we could see the field and just watched to see what would happen.

Apparently, [Professor] and the mob of students were able to make their way right to the double doors that led directly onto the field. A friend of mine says that, in retrospect, he thinks [Professor]’s plan was to get to those doors, show they couldn’t be opened, and lead the disappointed but excited grad students back to the banquet hall.

Instead, the double doors opened. [Professor] turned around, shocked, only to be mown down by a mob of gleeful students that he had unleashed on the empty stadium. From my vantage on the sky bridge, I saw students running the bases, throwing snowballs, and making snow angels in the outfield. Some kind of loud alarm instantly started blaring, and security removed everyone from the field. Our entire department was then kicked out of the banquet hall and told we were banned for life.

I never found out what happened to [Professor]. But I did hear that our wonderful administrators, as soon as they heard what happened, sent flowers and apologies to the staff at the banquet hall. When the following year’s interview weekend rolled around, we were somehow allowed back!

You Can’t Cheat Science!

, , , , , , , , , | Learning | August 24, 2021

When I was in grad school, one of my colleagues in my lab worked as a teaching assistant for a certain undergraduate class. Students in this class were notorious for cheating, and one of the ways they cheated was to collect their graded exams, change one of the answers, and submit it for a re-grade, claiming that that the teaching assistant had neglected to give them full credit for the answer.

My colleague was lamenting to some of us at lunch about how her student submitted a question for a re-grade, but she knew there was no way she had misgraded his answer to begin with.

Colleague: “I know he erased his answer and changed it. I mean, I graded fifty exams, so I don’t remember for sure, but there’s no way I wouldn’t have given that answer full credit. He has to be cheating!”

Me: “But you can’t prove it.”

Colleague: “No, and that’s what’s so frustrating.”

Me: “Can I see the paper?”

She showed me the paper. Right away, I noticed that there was a spot where the student’s pencil mark intersected with the teaching assistant’s red grading pen.

Colleague: “See? I can’t prove whether he wrote his answer before or after I graded the paper.”

Me: “We have microscopes.”

My colleague’s face lit up. She took the paper to one of our fancy lab microscopes, and even at ten times magnification, she could see the student’s pencil mark clearly ON TOP of her red pen. She took a picture using the microscope and submitted it to the professor, and the student eventually admitted to cheating. Science for the win.


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There’s A Tahini-Weeny Problem With That

, , , , , , | Right | June 8, 2021

Our summer frozen dessert stand has a tropical theme. There is a signpost with arrows and distances pointing to various distant beaches and other vacation destinations. One says, “Tahiti — 6,089 miles.”

Teenager #1: “Tahiti. What’s that?”

Teenager #2: “I think it’s some kind of sauce made from sesame seeds.”

Not So Smooth-ie Sailing

, , , , , | Right | March 18, 2021

I worked for a long time at a specific smoothie place near campus. We had a lot of regulars who would make weird requests that didn’t really fit the recipes that we had to follow, but if they agreed to pay for an added charge, it was usually fine with my extremely benevolent manager.

Some people, though…

I’d been working there for almost two years almost daily when this extremely pregnant lady that I had never seen before in my life came in and ordered one of our seasonal smoothies which is made with dairy. She asked for almond milk, which is a normal request, so I put that in instead of dairy for no extra fee. However, when her ticket was printed, she freaked out and began screaming at me because she didn’t want the dairy gone; she wanted to replace all of the water with almond milk with no extra charge.

I’m pretty sure most people know that milk in general costs more than water and is thicker, so it would not only make the smoothie incapable of blending, but it would also cost the store like five bucks of almond milk, since that particular smoothie had thirty-two pumps of water in it, without readjusting for the thickness of almond milk.

I thought I’d misheard her.

Me: “Ma’am, we have water in all our smoothies; they won’t blend without it.”

This lady LEANS over the counter, gets RIGHT in my face, and quietly says, “Come here,” before SCREAMING at me.

Customer: “I COME HERE EVERY. DAY. THEY GIVE ME MY G**D*** ALMOND MILK EVERY. DAY.”

First of all, b****, no. I am here every g**d*** day. I’ve NEVER seen you before in my LIFE. You’ve NEVER ordered that. Second of all, I’d leaned in close because I am hard of hearing and her screaming in my ear so close sent me reeling backward. I’m awful with confrontation, so my legs were shaking horribly, but I went to the owner in the back and asked if I could fulfill her request. He isn’t normally on premises and said yes just to get her to leave.

I began to make the smoothie the way the customer had asked. It didn’t blend. One of our several-thousand-dollar blenders broke and began smoking. We only had four in the shop to begin with, and it was the busiest day of the week. She kept screeching that we were doing it wrong and causing a scene until it finally blended with almost a half-gallon of almond milk in it. She spent like thirty minutes yelling at us that day.

The next day, she tried it again, and this time, my normally benevolent manager was in and had our backs. The customer was banned from asking for that smoothie again without paying for all the almond milk. She’s lucky we didn’t charge her for the blender.