While working at the call center, I met a few very interesting people. The one I got along with the best was a 30-something guy named Dave.
Dave had worked several jobs over his adult life. The only ones I remember was that he’d been a drummer in a band, which I thought was cool and an electrician, which stuck in my mind because my dad had also trained in some sort of electrical-related field (I was very young when he was in training, so the details are fuzzy). Dave had been the sort of electrician that fixes wiring in your house. I thought that was pretty cool. I was going to go to college for computer science, so in my mind that was a related field (it wasn’t).
Dave was taking classes at the University of Tennessee, studying to be an electrical engineer (which is more related to computer science). This was not going well, as he was attempting to take calculus for his third time. There would not be a fourth, as students were only allowed to fail a class three times before being barred from enrolling again. I had just passed the calculus AP exam with a 5, the top score, so I was less than impressed at Dave’s academic progress.
What did impress me, or at least interest me, was Dave’s romantic progress. Dave was a bachelor, but looking to change his status. He would often go out to parties and bars (things I had no real experience with) and talk to girls (something I had very little experience with). It seemed he was no more lucky in love than he was in calculus, but while his mathematical failures were of no interest to me, his amorous failures were endlessly fascinating.
One evening while we were taking a break, he told me about one girl he had chatted with at a house party he’d been at the night before. He’d enjoyed the conversation, and it seemed she had as well. She sent him a text afterward saying “It was fun talking with you tonight. You were an oasis of normalcy in a sea of creeps.”
These days, the first thing I notice in that statement is that it betrays the sort of party Dave seemed to find himself at. But back then, the same thing stood out to me that stood out to Dave: “Uh, isn’t an oasis in a desert?”
We had a slight laugh about the malapropism and debated whether she intended to say “an oasis of normalcy in a desert of creeps” or “an island of normalcy in a sea of creeps.” Our break was quickly up, and the topic was quickly forgotten.
The next night, on our break, Dave said “you’ll never guess what happened! I talked with the oasis girl again.” I indicated interest, and he said, “Yeah, I called her out. I asked her if she really meant ‘island.’ But she found a dictionary and showed me that the second definition was ‘something that provides refuge or relief,’ and argued that someone could provide refuge in the midst of a sea. I guess she got me there!”
I was skeptical, but at least impressed that she could back up her usage with a dictionary definition. Apparently the girl was not equally impressed by being called out for her word choice, and there was no second date.
I don’t know that I learned anything that day, but I do occasionally wonder what Dave is up to these days. After I quit that job I did receive one update from him, several months later.
He’d failed calculus again.