True story. Okay, there’s this Indian guy who runs my local supermarket. I think he actually came from Nepal, but I’ll call him Indian because, while a lot of people know where Nepal is, there’s still a lot who don’t. So, ages ago I gave up trying to get this Indian guy into any sort of conversation because it just didn’t seem to be working, something I put down to language problems and the apparent cultural divide that separates the state of Nepal and Australia, and I said, bugger it, and just gave up.
Anyway, a little while back I found out he had a degree in mathematics - I think his wife told me, and I think she has a degree in something too, maybe in the social sciences but I’m not 100% sure – so after that, the next time he served me I said, ‘So, the square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides then.’
He looked at me blankly so I drew a right angled triangle on the back of my cash register receipt, and he said in his up and down Indian voice, ‘So, you want to talk to me about Pythagoras?’ which I didn’t particularly because I’d fucked up badly at a party once by confusing Pythagoras with the guy who said, ‘Eureka,’ in the bath.
Anyway, the next day I brought in the equation drawn out on a piece of graph paper with a triangle and arrows and square root signs and if I do say so myself it looked pleasingly dramatic. He nodded. That’s all I got; he nodded.
So, a month or two goes by and then last week I thought I’d have another go because, quite honestly, what did I have to lose? Nothing. I had nothing to lose at all. So there he was, stacking shelves with stuff, and I came up to him and said, ‘Listen, I’m making a hadron collider in my garage out of a piece of pipe with an elastic band at each end,’ and I mimed pulling the elastic bands back and firing off atomic particles at each other. He gave me the old blank look for a second then, I don’t know, something must have happened and I got a smile.
Next day when I came in he said, ‘Hello Mr scientist,’ and I gave him the thumbs down and said, ‘Major bummer man, couldn’t get the thing to work,’ and he laughed in this comradely way like were these two big scientist dudes sharing some kind of major scientist gag together.
We haven’t spoken much since because he never was a great initiator of communications, and with Pythagoras and the hadron collider thing out of the way I’d pretty much blown all my topics of scientific conversation, but at least we smile and nod at each other occasionally so I guess that’s something.
Don’t go looking for any major point or moral to all this because there is none. It’s just a nice, heart-warming story about two people with vastly different backgrounds and cultural heritages coming together briefly over some scientific experiment in my garage, that wasn’t even real in the first place, and then going back to their own thing again. That’s all it is.