Today I started to see results from my month-long quest to meet new people on the train. People I’ve met have sought me out and I’ve been able to interact with more than one of them at a time. This time I sat across the isle from someone who I thought was likely to be talkative; no iPod, no book, and wide awake drinking coffee (very similar to myself today). Then out of nowhere Miss Mom Car got onto the train and sat down next to us. She almost missed the train so she was all flustered but generally in a good mood since she narrowly missed it all together. One side of me was psyched because I was able to talk to someone I knew, yet the other side was pissed because now it would be infinitely more difficult to talk to someone new. It ended up working out great and Mrs. Major, Miss Mom Car, and I had a great conversation on the morning train ride to work.
I don’t quite remember how the conversation started between Mrs. Major and myself. I think we made eye contact and I said hello/good morning. I found out rather quickly that she has her PhD in Genetics and that she specializes in vaccine research and development. Asking what people do for work is a really safe way to ease into a new conversation. As an “adult” in the “real world”, you spend a majority of your life working; traveling to/from work, being at work, working (or not working), thinking about work, etc. Therefore, people jump at the chance to explain what takes up the majority of their life if that person is willing to listen.
After doing years & years of vaccine research she got a position at Harvard Medical School to study infectious diseases.
I found that to be interesting considering I studied biomedical engineering in college. I spent a few semesters studying hospital-acquired infections and doing research on how to rapidly detect them (or in the case of my thesis, how NOT to detect them which I suppose is still valuable information, “Hey, here’s all the ways that this doesn’t work, you’re welcome, can I have my diploma now?”). So we talked about that topic for a while and various other public health issues. We then talked about various fellowships that are available for medical research. Mrs. Major was able to get her PhD because of a fellowship, similar to both myself and Miss Mom Car for our graduate and undergraduate degrees respectively. So on this topic we were able to have a conversation between three strangers, something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen on the train, so that was cool.
Then I find out that Mrs. Major after spending her career researching vaccines and infectious diseases (AT HARVARD) she decided to join the Army?! I tried to get out of her why she would make such a seemingly drastic move. It seems that she was able to use the G.I. bill to put her kids through college. I was unaware that soldiers could use the G.I. bill for their family members if they are not using it on themselves. Joining the army in the middle of a vibrant medical career is definitely an interesting means-to-an-end way to pay for her kids to go to college. She also opted to do basic training which is something not required for officers like herself. I can’t imagine going from having your PhD and working at Harvard to having some Army drill sergeant calling you a maggot and making you pound out 50 push-ups.
Miss Mom Car and I then took the bus together while Mrs Major went on her own way. The people I’ve met this month continually surprise me. I guess it goes to show that there’s always more to someone than meets the eye. Generally they’re willing to share if you’re willing to start the conversation and keep asking questions.