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Random Acts Of Niceness

Sometimes, people do things that just make your day.

The situation: I'm one of the co-coordinators of our ethnomusicology paper workshop, which generally draws about fifteen people per session. I am the co-coordinator in charge of schlepping the refreshments. They all fit in one big old Treasure Island shopping bag, but it's enough of a pain in the butt to drag that to school that I usually take the bus on days when I have the EthNoise food bag.

The CTA, in its infinite wisdom, sets abnormally short buses along the U of C school routes. These buses fill up almost from the first stop. And I mean fill -- I once read a Richard Scarry story about a character in Tokyo whose job it was to physically cram people into the trains, and that's about the level of the school buses. They get even fuller as the temperature drops. And today, it's about ten degrees colder than the average for this time in November.

Therefore, the ten o'clock bus did not stop at my stop this morning. Just zoomed right by, leaving about a dozen cold, disgruntled students in its wake. I'm particularly disgruntled; I don't take this bus when I don't need to, but I really need it this morning because I have the food bag. The next bus will probably be a) delayed and b) full as well, because that's just how these things work out.

So we're standing there, cold and disgruntled, when this car pulls up to the curb. It has a driver and a passenger in the front seat, and the passenger rolls down her window and calls out, "We're going to campus. We can take two people with us if someone wants a ride!"

Just like that. Completely random. Someone was kind enough to stop and offer a ride to school, for no better reason than that it was cold outside and they had two extra seats in the car. The food bag and I got to school in plenty of time for me to put the food in the fridge and chitchat with the department secretary a little before class.

Sometimes, my faith in humanity is restored.

(Of course, I also saw the professor of the class I was going to, who confessed shamefacedly that he hadn't corrected my paper because he'd forgotten that I'd e-mailed it to him -- the Music Department is trying this whole "going green" thing -- which also restored my faith in the consistency of human nature.)(I don't mind not getting this paper back instantly; it wasn't a major project. But the look on his face when he confessed that he'd forgotten about mine was just priceless.)

Also, I went to see a dissertation defense today. The process isn't nearly as scary as I'd imagined, and the defender passed, so all is good.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 20th, 2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
Generally speaking, a student's major professor should NEVER let the student go to defense unless s/he's sure the student will pass. That means consulting ahead of time with other committee memebers if there's any doubt.

But you're still smart to see what they're like.

I think I'll try to remember the effect of random acts of kindness. It's easy to forget the effect we can have.
Nov. 21st, 2008 03:56 am (UTC)
The dissertation defense was pretty much the same format as my MA defense, only longer, more detailed, and with an audience. It was kind of ritualized; the defender gave a paper in the library seminar room, and only those people with Ph.Ds actually sat at the table. The rest of us (fellow students and the defender's parents and brother) sat in the chairs around the side of the room. After the paper was given, all the Ph.Ds got to ask a question or two, and then the peanut gallery got to ask a token question. Then everyone but the Ph.Ds left the seminar room and waited. I have to say, this bit of "having an audience" seems like it'd be nice; you have company while you wait.

Took five minutes, then they called everybody back in and said we could congratulate the defender, which we all did. Just like that. A more-involved version of an event I've already been through.

The more I see the U of C's program, which does not offer a terminal master's, the more I appreciate having gotten a terminal master's back at the other university.
Nov. 20th, 2008 10:51 pm (UTC)
Oh wow, what a nice thing for that person to do! You're right, acts like that really can make your day.
Nov. 21st, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
It made me happy, which I'm sure made me act more pleasantly towards other people, which probably made their days a little easier. Good deeds just spread like that.
Nov. 20th, 2008 11:30 pm (UTC)
Random acts of kindness are great things. So is the concept of 'paying it forward'. I'm so glad you were on the receiving end today, especially given how cold it was.
Nov. 21st, 2008 03:51 am (UTC)
I try to do nice things when I see the opportunity for them, on the theory that it's generally good for one's karma. But it's still surprising when something nice happens to me!
Nov. 21st, 2008 12:15 am (UTC)
You were RAKked, and that's good.

Daw's comments about dissertation defense are reassuring. I'm afraid my only "experience" with such are an ancient comdedy--can't recall the name--that had Elliott Gould defending his dissertation against two normal professors and one who, shall we say had an obssession? Gould's character initially tried to compromise and bend his responses in the direction of the obssession, but when it became clear that only complete capitulation would suffice, he jumped up on a table and gave a speech of protest.

This was all very well and good for a 60's counter-cultural comedy, but I'm sure we don't want such hijinks in UofC classrooms.
Nov. 21st, 2008 03:50 am (UTC)
I certainly hope that my dissertation defense won't require me to jump up on tables!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )


by Illsaysheis

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