Thursday, October 19, 2006

Awkward moments at Stanford

Many people find the Stanford campus aesthetically pleasing. I get it. I even appreciate it. The arcades, the red tile, the palm trees, the fountains, the symmetry. But I'm still appalled by the sheer number of tourists. Buses come up Palm Drive, park along the Oval, and unleash their camera-toting multitudes to wreck havoc on the Main Quad. Usually I can take this in stride. Like how I deal with the fact that every time I bike to the department in my hoodie on a weekend morning to print some article or grab some last minute materials, I bike through the after shocks of a wedding. This is how things are. But sometimes, it becomes too much.

Cases in point: In the space of one week, both of the following happened to me.

1. Beautiful sunny day. I'm minding my own business, walking down the arcade parallel to Serra. Suddenly I realize that this guy walking perpendicularly to me is not manoevering to avoid me, but rather is on a crash course to intercept me. I look up. Young European-looking blond guy is handing me a camera and wants his picture taken with the sculptures and Memorial Church in the background. I do so, and he has to repeat directions on how to press the button as I try to get a pic that doesn't have too many other people in it.

2. I had just picked up the 1964 compilation of Harper's Magazine from the library, because I want to use the essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" in my PWR course. And I have this dream of inspiring students to use the library by giving them a copy of the actual magazine from 1964. Anyways. So I'm sitting at the bus stop flipping through 40 year old ads for vermeoth and vacations to Egypt -- Let me interrupt myself: While getting these old magazines, I happened to look at some mags from the mid-70's, which were advertising cars with 24 miles to the gallon. And I thought, Christ, this is depressing. Fuel efficiency hasn't improved in the last 30+ years. Imagine what technological improvements could have been initiated if big oil didn't own our government. It's not inconceivable that we could have been much less reliant on the Middle East, and could therefore have saved ourselves a few trillion dollars and many thousands of lives. But I digress.

So I'm sitting at the bus stop with my ads for scotch and typewriters, when this man and young woman approach me, camera in hand. "Can we take a picture with you?" At first I thought he was asking me to take a picture of them. But no. He sat by me, asked if I was a student ("Yes, in English"), put his arm over the back of the bench, and the lady snapped a picture of us. I smiled. He said something which I at first thought was "You should come to China," but was actually "I'm from China" (or something to that effect). Shanghai, in fact. Sounds like he's going to be a student here. To which I commented on the distance and the nice weather in CA, and to enjoy it.

What makes this even funnier, is that the same thing happened to Jessica when she visited a couple of weeks ago. She got her picture taken by a tourist in the bookstore coffee shop, despite her protests that she doesn't actually go here yet.

Who knew that Stanford students were a curiosity worthy of photo documentation.

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