Thursday, January 19, 2006
Twelve years ago today, OmegaMom was nervously stepping foot into a conference room for lunch with her new "mentor" and her new co-interns in the Science and Engineering Research Semester (now known as the Undergraduate Student Program) at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Close to finishing her long-unfinished bachelor's degree in Computer Science, OmegaMom had applied for the internship on a lark. The worst that could happen, she reasoned, was that she would come home to her (very cute) little cottage (formerly a chicken coop) in the back of a property in San Leandro to find a corps of eminence grises on the lawn, all of them pointing scornful arms at her and shouting in unison, "How DARE you, OmegaMom, darken our illustrious doorsteps with even an application!" She could live that down, she figured. So there she was, having been selected for a semester in Los Alamos, which she had thought of as being around where White Sands was--desert-y, dry, hot. Imagine her immense surprise and delight to discover that it was up in the mountains, there were pine trees all over the place, lots of national parks and monuments within driving distance, and oodles of archeological sites. Ahhh! And this was the first day. There, at the welcome lunch, each of the students was required to stand up and give a little spiel about who they were, what made them apply, and what they hoped to do. Child after child stood up to give their blurbs. OmegaMom, a 34-year-old returning student, looked at them all and thought, "Sheesh. What am I going to have in common with these kiddos?!" Then this scrawny, blond-haired dude stood up. He spoke with a thick Oklahoma twang. His suit was somewhat ill-fitting. He looked older. He was cocky. He vibrated with energy. OmegaMom looked at him and thought, "Hunh. He seems kind of interesting." Not that the kiddos seemed uninteresting, just that she thought she might have more in common with this dude. After all, he might actually remember the Watergate Hearings... A day later, this dude and his roommate for the semester showed up at the doorstep of OmegaMom's government-supplied studio, which she shared with a nice, naive, white-blond-haired Mormon gal. They were canvassing the complex, collecting names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails for each of the students in the program. OmegaMom drank wine, chit-chatted with John and this dude, and then John left to continue the canvassing, while Dude kept talking with OmegaMom. And talking. And talking. Telling stories. Sharing dreams. Laughing. Discovering a shared passion for poring over topographic maps of the area and figuring out where there were interesting things to go see and do. So Dude and OmegaMom made a date for that Saturday. They'd meet up at 9 a.m., and go "Gorging Squared"--drive up to Taos, check out the Rio Grande Gorge and see if they could locate an Ethiopian restaurant that the SERS coordinator had mentioned. Kewl. Saturday rolls around. Dude and OmegaMom hit the road. Talking, talking, talking. They drive down the hill to Espanola and start through town. OmegaMom sees, out of the corner of her eye, a touristo shop that looks interesting. She comments on it. Dude hangs a u-ey with his big Ford truck, and squeals tires getting in there before the light changes. They continue on. They drive alongside the Rio Grande all the way north. They discover the Black Mesa Winery. They discover the mystical wise man who runs a roadside chachki shop, whose motto and mantra is, "No matter what, be happy"--and get shown his postcards from all over the world from people who had stopped there and talked with him for hours. They lunch in Taos. They drive to Angel Fire and around and back. They end up at the Gorge at 5 p.m., in the middle of a blinding snowstorm. They drive back in the dark. They are finishing each others' sentences by now. They dine in Taos. They end up back at the student housing at 10 p.m. They spend the next day together. At some point, OmegaMom throws her arms around him, gives him a big kiss, and say, "I like you so damned much!" By the end of the week, they are joking about running off and getting married. Happy anniversary, Mr. OmegaMom. It's been a great 12 years.