As a college student at a rather prominent American university, I am often offered the opportunity to see famous people of all breeds - scientists, politicians, actors, writers, and more - come speak to an open audience about their life experience. Just last Saturday, Sean Astin came to campus to release his new independent film and field questions about his previous movies (with a distressing number of questions being asked about The Goonies).
I usually skip out on these opportunities. I'd rather spend my time at my baby, the campus radio station. Tonight was no exception.
I pulled my car up to the front of the student center with my roommate Mike, parked, grabbed my bag of CDs I lug around practically everywhere, and headed for the front doors. Looming in front of us were two people somewhat clumsily operating the handicapped doors, and with them a person in a motorized wheelchair, and Mike and I rather easily caught up to them. They reached the inner foyer, but the chair was going terribly slow. Unbearably so, I finally decided, and I adroitly passed them with an apologetic smile to one of the assistants.
Poor kid, I thought to myself rather absentmindedly. Mike being a bit behind me was forced to hold the door open for the party. I went straight down the stairs to the radio station, never once looking back.
As I started in to do my daily business, Mike came in the station and headed straight for the office. "Dude, did you see who that was?."
"Stephen Hawking?" I joked.
Mike was like, "Yeah! Wow, I can't believe it."
I looked at him like he was stupid. "That wasn't Stephen Hawking."
"Umm .. yeah, it was."
"Stephen fucking Hawking, dude. That was awesome, I held the door for him! I told him I loved his books, too."
I was floored. I have a respect for physics (but not the capacity for it) and I had read his books before - he was my favorite besides Feynman for making the hard stuff sound simple. And I had just walked right past him without saying a word!
Mike later decided the most productive thing he had ever done in his life was hold the door for a man as productive as Dr. Hawking. I kicked myself for missing an opportunity to thank a man who has given mankind new insight into our universe as we (vaguely) know it. And both of us agreed that next time we bump into the prestigious astrophysicist, we would compliment him on his madd MC skillz.