Why You Should Pay Attention In Class, Feat. Dad and Dr. Puck
Gather ‘Round everyone, it’s time for another installment of Family Lore!
So back in the late 60′s dad was getting his undergraduate at Cal Poly, because Dad was an early proto-nerd (like really, he wrote a bunch of the groundwork for the thing that would eventually become the internet), and Cal Poly had one of the first comp sci programs in the country. Also, it was like 10 miles from home, so he didn’t have to move out. However, because this was undergrad, dad had to take a bunch of non-major courses, so he decided to do geology because he’d been good at identifying rocks in boy scouts.
The course was taught by gentleman named Dr. Puck, yes really, who was a brilliant geologist, but teaching a bunch of somewhat uninterested just-out-of-high-school kids about rocks can wear on you, even if you aren’t some sort of deranged fey creature. So he tried his best to make it interesting, and Dad and most of the other kids had a fairly interesting time.
Dad recounts that there were two girls in class who spent the entire time blowing off lecture, talking and generally being a distracting nuisance, until they heard that a quiz was coming up, then they’d pester and bully anyone for notes, usually Dad. This went on for about three months and virtually everyone in class was grinding their teeth at these two, but Dad in particular, who did not appreciate being accosted in the hall by these two, who would alternately offer sexual favors for his notes, or threaten to start rumors about him if he didn’t help them study. Puck knew some shit was up, but dad wasn’t eager to start legal action in his first semester, not to mention it was the 60′s and rampant patriarchy would have meant nobody would have believed him.
One Day, Dr. Puck organized a field for the class to the Santa Cruz Mountains, which are full of all manner of interesting geology things, most notably, fossils. Really stinking cool ones. Everyone is having a nice time hiking through the hills, looking at all the picturesque geology, when they round a corner and see a Big Goddamn RIB, just sticking out of the side of the trail. Everyone goes OOOOOOH appreciatively, and Puck explains that this is an ancient Whale that UC Santa Cruz was digging up, but he knew someone in their geo department, so he got the goods on the site.
He then explains, in grand gestures and with the sort of vivacity that only people of Fey ancestry can muster, how this used to be an ancient seabed, but due to the
magic Natural Geologic Process of Continental drift and Uplift, this whale was now some 2000 feet above sea level. He spent a good twenty minutes telling the tale, while everyone took notes.
Literally the moment after Puck finished, one of the girls finally noticed the GIANT FUCKING RIB and asked him “But Dr. Puck- how did whale get all the way up here?”
Puck, somehow, did not explode, but instead stood up to his full five-feet-and-one-and-one half-inches and explained in his most deadpan, eloquent lecture voice.
“This is a Great Flying Whale of the Cretaceous Period.” He gestured at the Rib. “They used to migrate here to Santa Cruz to breed, from their winter grounds in Hawaii, and would build magnificent nests out of kelp.”
Dad recalls stuffing his notes into his mouth to keep from laughing. His more silver-tongued classmates began to chip in.
“Didn’t they used to eat Stegosaurs? Just swooped down and gobbled them up.” a student asked, trying not to snicker.
“Indeed! They were far from the gentle giants we have today!” Puck agreed. “Teeth the size of your arm, and long sticky tongues to catch smaller prey with.”
“How did they fly?” Asked another, ready to hear a choice piece of bullshit.
“Oh, gravity was much weaker back then, so they could ‘swim’ through the air with only the aid of a few helium bladders.” he nodded sagely. “Yes, and when they fossilized, the bladders were preserved. Santa Cruz has some of the finest Helium mines in the world thanks to these magnificent beasts.”
“Wow.” Muttered one of the girls, scribbling notes furiously. Dad unwaded the parper from his mouth, ready to drive the nail into the coffin.
“Is this going to be on the test?” He asked, sweetly.
“Oh yes.” Puck nodded gravely.
Sure enough, two weeks later, there was a test, and at the very bottom was the following:
“EXTRA CREDIT: explain everything innacurate/wrong about The Great Flying Whales Of The Cretaceous Period. One Point per Idea that makes me Laugh.”
And that’s how Dad walked out of geology with 106% and the invaluable knowledge that people will believe ANYTHING if you speak with enough conviction.