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::: center home >> being here >> last donut? >> bears again

For the Bears Again
September 18, 2014

After our earlier failure to distribute Center coffee mugs, I was a little despondent. We had worked hard to create a nice mug, so that everyone would just have to have one. Or perhaps they would just like to have one. We hoped for the first, but we would settle for the second. It seemed that we hadn't even achieved that.

Then things started to be put right. We were having our bi-weekly HPS graduate student lunch. We all squeeze into our small lounge and share a lunch picked out and arranged by the HPS graduate students.

Adam Caulton called out to me:

"So, how do I get one of those mugs?!"

Joyce was away that day, so it took me a while to figure out how to break into her office to get to the mugs and the bear. After that was done, Adam placed his hand on the bear to swear his silent oath. He chose a black-lidded mug.

Then, as an afterthought, I held up a mug before the throng and shouted out, "Does anyone else want a mug?" The room fell silent for just a moment. It was the silence of a fragile glass vase, at the moment that it teeters on the edge, before it falls and shatters. Then the "yes--me's" came flooding in.

Soon we had a small queue going into Joyce's office. Each placed a hand on the bear to take the pledge. (I explained that they don't need to say anything--it works telepathically.) Then they get a mug and write their name on it.

Afterwards, with the help of Katie Tabb, I began to untangle the tale. I had announced loudly in two talks:

"Anyone can have a mug."

I'd been understood to say:

"Anyone can have a mug, except graduate students...because of course graduate students never get any of the good stuff."

I could now set that right. I meant the first. I'm wondering who else added a silent "except..." qualifier.

Bill Bechtel had a bright idea. Perhaps people do not want to carry their mugs around. So, we declared, the high shelf in our conference room is now where mugs can live. A few inhabitants have taken up residence.

We are going through our supply of mugs. I've even been told of visitors who will come to the Center shortly and are reserving their mugs ahead.

It might still work out for the bears. Or at least if it doesn't, we won't be to blame.

(Thanks to Sara Green for having the wit to capture the moment in a photo.)

John D. Norton

Revised 9/23/14 - Copyright 2012