Friday, July 22, 2011

Close encounters of the third kind in De Neve

What do you do when a complete stranger walks up to you and gives her number - unsolicited - in the dining hall, of all places?

Answer: You push the incident to the attic of your mind for nearly a year until rummaging through old text messages revives the memory, and blog about it.

This, dear readers, is a thrilling tale of one man and his quest to finish his sudoku and how he was so strangely interrupted.

There I was, on a pleasant September afternoon, minding my own business and having a quiet lunch at UCLA's famed De Neve residential dining hall. The new academic year had just begun and one could still sense the excitement in the air. I don't recall what I had for lunch that day but for the sake of completeness, let us pretend I had a bowl of pasta, a plate of cheese pizza, a plate of garlic bread, a banana, a bowl of pudding (I always get dessert first before ravenous hordes of over enthusiastic freshmen and battle hardened upperclassmen raid the stores) and a glass of water sitting on my tray. A well-used copy of the day's Daily Bruin, the school's esteemed student newspaper, sat clumsily folded in front of me. I was knee-deep in the sudoku puzzle, ominously marked "fiendish." Since I had already completed the crossword, I was forced to confront this fiend. I nibbled at the bread now and then, but my attention was mostly on the empty grids. I was about to enter sudoku nirvana when...

"Excuse me, where did you get the paper from?"

The speaker was female. I looked up to see her smiling at me. I had a strong urge to blurt out the first thought that crossed my head, which was the paper is all over freaking campus;are you blind? Politeness and restraint prevailed, however, and I replied, "I got it right by bruinwalk. There is a stack of them outside De Neve too."

By this time she sat herself down on my table. She extended her hand and said, "Hi, I am ________"
I shook her hand and gave my name, being careful to spell out my not-so-common first name.

After that she launched into a monologue about how hard it was for her to find friends as a transfer student (even though she was having lunch with a friend, who was clearly very interested in the proceedings at my table at this point). I was thoroughly mystified but kept the conversation up. Eventually we came around to me, and when she found out I was a pre-med student on the interview trail she perked up and began asking about the MCAT. My pudding began melting and my pasta went cold.

Then she said, "Hey let me give you my phone number so we can hang out and stuff..." She made sure I entered it in and texted me her number again to make sure I got it. I was instructed to give her my number. Too dazed by the unexpected nature of events, I complied. She got up and went back to her table. I returned to my neglected lunch and the fiendish sudoku. The blank, unfilled squares were openly mocking me now. Ten minutes later, she got up to leave. On her way out, she leaned towards my table and said, "Bye, hope to see you soon."

During my four years at UCLA, I saw some pretty bizarre shit and met some strange people, but this definitely made it to the top three list. I looked around for cameras and was half expecting Ashton Kutcher to jump in and tell me I was a lucky guest on Punk'd. I was convinced this was either a) An elaborate prank conjured up by her lunch friend and her or b) A gesture of friendship driven by pity seeing as I was sitting alone for lunch. Either way I shook my head and forgot about it. I had two more interviews coming up and had other things to worry about. I never called her/texted her and neither did she. It's as if the whole thing never happened. Like a big, fat hallucination. In her defense, she probably was just looking to network with people (my friend Citizen Lafayette contends that there is a particular species of college student called "the networker" that goes around getting numbers from people) and get tips on the pre-med curriculum. But the way the whole thing played out was too jarring for me.

And that sudoku? Alas, I never finished it. Maybe that was her plan all along.


  1. I found this thoroughly entertaining tirth

  2. Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it, Anonymous