Friday, September 7, 2007

The Only Thing I Can Do Right is Write

Oh well, I hope at least someone other than me thinks so

Today I was supposed to have a meeting with someone for Teach for America. We would sit around a table, drink coffee, and talk for an hour. Actually I was hoping that it would be less, because I had to take part in an economics experiment later on today. I was looking forward to making a few bucks for a minimal amount of work. However I was running behind as soon as I woke up. I haven't been able to sleep well, or do anything well for that matter, and I called the guy I was supposed to meet and said I would be fifteen minutes late. he said that was fine and hung up.

It was time to get dressed. I threw on the shorts and shirt I have been wearing for the past four days and left my room and took the elevator down. I had forgotten one crucial detail. Earlier in the week, I had received an e-mail telling me about the meeting and what to look for when trying to pick out one young guy sitting by himself from a whole room filled with them. It turns out the distinctive marker was a blue mug that appropriately said "Teach for America" on it.

Well, I didn't know that at the time I was out of the building and making my way to cross Houston Street. So I went into the coffee shop and looked around, expecting someone with a giant sign above them announcing who they were and what organization they were representing. I had no id what he would look like. I suppose I thought young and urbane, not in a suit and tie, maybe glasses, but probably not. If he had been a teacher himself, he probably would have exchanged rims for contacts, to appear younger and less overly erudite.

I saw plenty of people who could have been the man I was looking for, the man who was looking for me. There were some sitting with lap tops and I wondered if these were likely candidates. I had expected to share an empty table and exchange forms, brochures, numbers, and my resume. So what would he need a computer for? Maybe if I bored him he would starting surfing the Internet, checking out personals on Craigslist.

Pacing around, looking at my watch, and rocking back and forth on my toes didn't seem to catch Antone's attention. A few people looked at me, but not int he inquisitive way I hoped, trying to figure out if I was the one they were waiting for, the promised child, the future teacher for America. I'm sure the staff working behind the counter were pleased, seeing this young man with a beard looking around, clutching a bag close to himself, not ordering anything.

Finally, I gave up. I left, wanting to catch my experiment in time and to be able to catch a bite to eat before then. I had a pumpernickel bagel and in change I got back dimes and nickels, the man was out of quarters. it was a bad omen. Or a bad closing. Well, one thing that I didn't expect and know how to deal with.

I went inside the building for the experiments and waited until they were ready to let me into the lab. Now these were economic experiments, I would play a lame computer game and I would be paid base don my decision making skills. The people running the experiments would collect the data and weave grand theories out of it. I would get a few bucks and science and society would be advanced by the cause. I suffered no setback in getting into the experiment, my name was on the list and there was a computer available for me. I was relieved. Something good was going to happen.

However the experiment was more structured than I thought it would be. There was little left up to me. I had to choose the right combination of balls, marked with either an X, a Y, or a Z. Then I was eligible for a lottery were I could win $105 dollars. If I chose wisely, or more accurately, I was lucky. I could choose to change the balls I had, in any combination, or to keep them the same and then risk not getting the payout. If I did not choose the right balls in the electronic urn (harking back to Ancient Athens' juries) then all I would get was a show up fee, minus the cost of switching balls.

I decided on a compromise, changing one ball and keeping the other two the same. I thought that this was like a Monty Hall problem or something like it, but I didn't know what was the best solution in this case. I wanted to keep as much of the show-up fee as possible, so I lost a dollar by changing one ball. Anyways, the computer turned its gears and decided that despite my efforts, I was not worthy of the grand prize. I knew I was not alone, most of the people in the room with me probably didn't get it either, but that solidarity would not pay for a nice meal and a bottle of Scotch.

So today was a day of failure in regards to events within my control and for events regarding luck. At least I was able to buy my groceries without any problems. If only the one guy who did win the huge prize wasn't in line next to me at the Bursar's office, waiting for the petty cash officer to count off his plethora of twenty dollar bills.