Never in my life have I embarrassed myself so horrifically in front of someone so brilliant.
I agreed to cover a lecture today for the school newspaper given by scientist H. Robert Horvitz, who received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2002. The lecture was to an audience of high school students, given with the intention of promoting an interest in the sciences. Before this lecture, he had another talk at Rhode Island Hospital at 8 am and he wanted me to meet him there for the interview after the talk, as it was the only free time he had available.
I had no idea how to get to the hospital and in anticipation of a difficult and lengthy commute, I left an hour early for the event. At 6:50 a.m. I boarded Bus #1 tentatively. “Does this go to Rhode Island hospital?” I asked. The driver nodded curtly.
Of course, the bus ride took less than ten minutes. I therefore decided to kill some time by going to Au Bon Pain to quietly eat breakfast and read my book until the lecture started.
I was minding my own business when I heard a commotion at the table directly behind me. There was a mirror to my left, and I could see everything that was going on. It was a group of well dressed old men with big beards and glasses. Most were carrying briefcases. I couldn’t help but overhear bits of their conversation.
“Dr. Horvitz this is Provost Schlissel.” (Brown University’s current provost).
“Pleasure to meet you.”
They continued exchanging pleasantries.
Any normal person would have sat there, finished their oatmeal in silence and waited patiently for the lecture to begin. In my defense, that was my original inclination. However, as I sat there listening I grew more and more uncomfortable. What if they recognized me later and said to each other: “Hey that was the girl who sat down next to us at breakfast! Was she eavesdropping? Taking notes? What an awkward thing for her to do!”
So rather than suffer the discomfort of that scenario, I thought I would increase the discomfort of the situation by inventing an entirely different, and exponentially more awkward course of action.
Dear God, I cringe just remembering it – How I got up from my seat to throw out my cup, hovered on the outskirts of their table, making enough eye contact with these VERY important people long enough that they began to look at me in confusion. How I jumped at this opportunity to impertinently interrupt their conversation to say that I was Lindsay Gantz, the girl he was supposed to be meeting later for an interview. I was, in fact, sitting at the table directly behind them “not eavesdropping.”
The mixed expressions of pity and confusion taught me a valuable and unforgettable lesson: Be bold, try new things, and be daring. But never ever ever ever introduce yourself to a Nobel laureate by interrupting his life and crashing his breakfast party. It will never be a good idea, and you’ll feel really stupid. Trust me.