Featured, Society & People

What Happens When Physics isn’t the Most Confusing Part of Class?

One of the benefits of going to a large university like BC is that you run into so many different kinds of people. Given the size of BC, it’s not surprising that some classes are filled with scholars who don’t necessarily fit the bill of a typical college student. As a physics major, I’m exposed to many things each day that cannot be explained. But nothing in Classical Mechanics quite compared to the odyssey of my classmate, known only as The Man.

It began when, after the first few classes I noticed an older gentleman who I had not seen in any of my classes before. Now other college students may have given him no notice at all, they might think so what? Anyone may join the classes so why take notice of this one? But when you’re a physics major and you only have about 12 contemporaries and each one takes just about all the same courses, you get used to seeing the same people every semester. This is what began my interest in The Man.

So now that I had noticed his presence, I took note of an oddity. At the end of every class when everyone else was packing up their notebooks, he wasn’t. He would simply sit there in his desk and read his notes or just look up at the board so that by the time the rest of us had left he was still sitting there. Not the strangest thing a person could do but when it happened class after class without fail and since my curiosity had already been aroused it was enough to make an impression.

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Cartoon by Suzanne Severance

I decided to find out what he does when the rest of us had left him behind. As class ended I did my best to stall in an effort to figure out where The Man goes after class. I sat at my desk much like him and read the last notes I had written down and slowly packed up my things however I was still too fast for him. When I couldn’t stand the awkwardness of sitting in the classroom any longer I left and thought I’d wait outside to see if he went into one of the physics labs or the offices indicating he worked in the department.

I stood a little bit down the hall and spoke with a friend who happened to be walking by, all the while keeping an eye on the door waiting for The Man to leave. Once my friend had left to go to class and there was no sign of my quarry I decided to go back to the class to see what he could be doing. When I got there I was surprised to find he was not in the room. I realized he must have left through the other door of the room. This however was an unexpected result since it also meant he must have left the building using an odd, out of the way stairwell since that is the only way he could have gone without me seeing him. This was but the first escape of many to come.

I decided this had gone far enough and an explanation for The Man must be found. In order to reach this goal I decided to look for help. I decided to confide in one of my classmates and he agreed, he had also noticed The Man so he wanted to join in my search for answers. We decided to wait after class in ideal locations to watch both exits of the room. So this time when he left through the back door we saw him and he went through the same stairwell I suspected he had used previously. When we lost sight of him we went in but when we got in there we couldn’t hear anything so we had no idea if he had gone up or down. We went down a floor and looked around but saw nothing, and so we lost him again.

I realized we needed to call in the reinforcements and who better for such a strange endeavor than my fellow members of The Rock. Armed with some of our finest contributors, we had all the exits to Higgins covered. Or so we thought.

The one thing we’ve figured out about The Man is that privacy is paramount to him. He takes every measure imaginable to make sure no one is following him. Even with reinforcements, The Man evaded us many times. You can’t take your eye off him even for a second or else he’ll vanish into thin air.

Things really got weird once we managed to follow him out of the building. Either The Man really likes walking around campus, or he’s trying to hide something.

Here’s the route that The Man once took to the parking garage

1. Walks outside Higgins, begins descent down Million Dollar Stairs
2. Stops halfway down for no apparent reason for a few minutes
3. Continues down to bottom of stairs. Stops to tie his shoe for a few minutes.
4. Walks into Hillside. Stops to stare around for a few minutes. Fills water bottle.
5. Leaves Hillside, stops to look directly at us, walks back up Million Dollar Stairs.
6. Stops halfway up. Looks around for a few minutes. Walks past O’Neill toward parking garage.
7. Walks to the top of parking garage. Stops at the top to stare at nothing in particular for a few minutes.
8. Walks back down stairs to the fourth floor of the parking garage. Stands near his car for a few minutes.
9. Finally gets in car and leaves.

The most puzzling thing about The Man is the way he stops every hundred feet or so. He just stops to look and he takes the strangest routes around campus. Who knows why he wouldn’t take the garage elevator. Sure he might like exercise, but there’s a perfectly good staircase in the parking garage as well. He also has an affinity for sitting in the physics study lounge for ten minutes at a time. Surely he must be getting in some valuable study time during those ten long minutes…

Since the semester is over and I no longer have Classical Mechanics, the mystery of The Man may never be solved. Perhaps some secrets are best undisturbed. Whether he’s a Russian nuclear weapons scientist, a man who’s rediscovering his love of physics, or just a plain oddball, it’s been fun trying to piece together the puzzle of The Man.


  1. shaquille o'neal

    This article was a slam dunk. Almost as good as Kazaam. Nothing beats Kazaam.

  2. The Colonel

    Mr Naughton, this may be a job for Sherlock Holmes, or Carrie from “Homeland” at the least. Consider that “The Man” is not sitting in on any classes like sociology or group dynamics, where useless platitudes are exchanged to no particular purpose. No, he’s hanging about Physics. Physics is where the truly intelligent learn about ballistics, the dynamics of explosions, even nuclear fission and fusion.

    The definitive evidence that The Man is up to no good comes from his every day use of “Moscow Rules” evasive techniques, nos. 2-8 in your catalogue. If I recall aright, the FBI spy and traitor Robert Hanssen (an Opus Dei Catholic, by the by) was caught in part because when subject to almost routine, random surveillance, he regularly used “Moscow Rules” levels of counter-surveillance techniques, exactly like “The Man.” He’s patently up to something and perhaps you can catch him – – maybe working with a ‘good guy’ spook who, if you’re extra lucky, will [1] look like Claire Danes and [2] not be bipolar and crazy like “Carrie.”

    Good hunting!

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