Rather than respond one by one to all of the kind wishes and wise words in response to “Imposter with a pen”, I thought that I’d add a brief blog to let you all know that I “survived” the book signing without being “unmasked”. In fact, as is usually the case in my day-job lectures and what-not, after the initial jitters, I felt fine and actually enjoyed myself. I was able to get in a few good words for Lablit (the genre, website, and authors), and of course, Occam’s Typewriter. I even sold 20 books or so.
However, just prior to the start of the book signing, I was reminded of a (true) little story that took place way back (shortly after Richard’s ammonite died…) when I was an undergraduate student in Jerusalem.
In our third and final year of the very condensed biology program in which I was enrolled, we finally had a range of elective courses. I was thrilled to be able to escape from botany, zoology and ecology courses (no condescension intended—just not my forte) and immerse myself in the more biochemical and molecular-based ones. One course that was mandatory was the scary “undergraduate seminar”.
Although Hebrew was (and still is) a second language to me, I was not especially concerned; after all, I had the advantage of reading the papers in English. However, many of the students seemed to be very frightened. I chose an immunological topic related to bone marrow transplants and set out to prepare.
Finally, after weeks of preparation, came the fateful day. Not only did we students have to stand up in front of the class (at least in front of those of us who had chosen immunological-based topics), but also in front of a cluster of professors (can anyone help me out—is there a term for a group of professors like a “gander of geese”?) who were involved in guiding the students through their readings and preparations.
Well, I did fine. But this story isn’t about me. It’s about another student who—reports had it—was extremely stressed and hadn’t eaten much in the 24 hours before his seminar. His name was Simon, and when his turn came he stood up and slowly walked to the front of the classroom/lecture hall. Now these were of course the pre-power point days, so Simon, like everyone else, had a pile of transparencies that he had prepared for the overhead projector.
After laying the first transparency in place, Simon turned on the projector, moved to the side and began his first sentence. He was somewhat pale, and his voice shook. From the back of the room, I did not like where this was headed. In his second sentence, Simon said (no, it wasn’t put your hands on your head!), “I think I need a drink of water”. He walked to the side of the room, took a long drink, and came back to the center. He began his third sentence, wavered back and forth like a pendulum, and promptly passed out.
Poor Simon! It took over two minutes to revive him. Fortunately, this was a medical center, and a doctor arrived on the scene promptly. Simon was fine, and eventually did a private seminar at a later date for his examining professors (they weren’t taking any chances!).
A few years later, Simon and I found ourselves both as graduate students in the Lautenberg Center for General and Tumor Immunology. One of the requirements for the entire department was to occasionally deliver a weekly journal club. When it was Simon’s turn, there was a lot of whispering in the room before the journal club started. After all, a number of the students and professors in the room had witnessed “the event” a few years earlier, and for those who hadn’t, the rumors spread to them rapidly.
Simon got up and introduced the paper. He then smiled and said in a bold voice: “For safety sake, I suggest that those of you sitting in the front row move to the back; the overhead projector is heavy and I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.” He went on and did a great job. All’s well that ends well…