Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Merry Christmas

No, this is not another reflection on the perils and pleasures of having a birthday at this time of year; at least, not exactly. The topic did, however, come up recently in an unusual setting and somehow this led to another topic that is a rather common theme around here at the FSP blog, and I was kind of fascinated by that.

Below you will find a transcript (heavily edited for brevity, but faithfully recording the content) of a conversation I recently had as part of being "interviewed" by an official person at an airport re. the Security of the Homeland. I hope it doesn't shock anyone, but you will see below that I admit to lying (once) to this official person in this interview.

Man In Uniform (MIU): Your birthday is very close to the end of the year. That must have made your father happy, for tax purposes.

FSP: Yes. (That was my one lie: In fact, it was my mother who was happy about this; she handled all the family finances, did the taxes, and had labor induced a few days early, for tax purposes. I doubt if my father knew or cared about any of this, but I didn't see a reason to correct the MIU's assumption about my parents.)

MIU: Have we met before?

FSP: Not to my knowledge.

MIU: I think we might have met. A few weeks ago I met another female professor from your university. She works on [name of a research topic that a non-scientist might think is similar to what I do even though it's not].

FSP: No, that wasn't me. I work on X, and that's different from what that other professor works on.

MIU: Are you sure? Two lady professors from the same university, both scientists?

FSP (calmly): That wasn't me. There are more than two female science professors at my university.

MIU: I used to jump out of airplanes.


MIU: Have you ever changed your name?

FSP: No.

MIU: [long anecdote about a woman in his family who recently changed her name]. Have you ever plotted to overthrow the US government?

FSP: No.

The rest was kind of boring. Why had I traveled to Countries X, Y, and Z? What did I bring back? Who paid for my business travel? etc.

That's my Christmastime-birthday-gender-directed-weirdness anecdote. Happy Birthday Merry Christmas, and don't forget to send in your fake CV for the Academic Writing Contest of 2012.


DrDoyenne said...

Well, they are trained to be suspicious of anything out of the ordinary, and "lady professors" are clearly in that category.

I've had similar (though not quite as bizarre) experiences with Homeland Security questions. More along the lines of, "Are you SURE you are a scientist, lady?" Also, the agent sometimes persisted in talking to my male assistant instead of me about samples I was bringing in (the permit had my name on it).

I've been tempted to put "housewife" on the entry form just to avoid these questions. But then I'd have quite a time explaining my scientific equipment if my luggage was searched ("well, officer, it's a new type of cooking utensil")....which would probably lead to a very memorable experience with Homeland Security.

EliRabett said...

Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas and no strange questions from all those who leave comments.

Best for the New Year

GMP said...

Happy B-day, FSP!

Alex said...

Birthday music for geeks!

Anonymous said...

Love the bit about jumping out of airplanes

My daughters BD is Dec 16--are you even closer to the holiday?

Mark P

Elizabeth said...

Happy birthday FSP! My daughter's birthday is on Friday - I have your comment about cool vacations between Christmas and New Year's in the back of my mind for when she is old enough to enjoy that sort of birthday celebration. (Right now it's all about the cake!)

I travel internationally a good bit for work and I find that the passport control guys always perk up when I tell them I am a physicist - they think that sounds cool and want to ask me about the Higgs (the actual particle) or "The Big Bang Theory" (the TV show).