Last night, about 10:15, I was lolling in the tub, reading, when the phone rang. Figuring it was too late for telemarketers or whoever – and knowing that Bachelor #1 sometimes calls a bit on the late side – I hopped out of the tub and, dripping wet and covered with bubbles, answered the phone.
It was C., a friend of mine from grad school. Okay, a word about C. He’s a little older than I, and an Orthodox Jew, but we somehow forged a genuine friendship during that time. It was mostly about shared intellectual interests – we also had the same advisor, who was a wonderful woman who was the perfect academic mentor. Anyway, so we were friends in grad shcool, would occasionally have coffee or a meal together, etc. Not a close friendship, or an intimate one, but an important one. In the 20 (yikes!) years since, we’ve stayed in touch, mostly through a letter or two a year. I left academia in '87, so there’s not a huge commonality there, but we maintain the connection. The last time I saw him was maybe 10 years ago, when an academic society he belongs to met here in Philly – there was talk of getting together when he brought his son to visit the Franklin Institute (science museum), but that fell through.
Anyway, so I’m dripping bubbles, and C. is on the phone. “Are you all right?” “Um, yeah, I’m fine.” “Are you sure you’re all right?” and I’m trying to think “well, I had the flu for a couple of days back in May…” because honest to god I’m healthy as a horse (knock on wood).
Well, C. had just gotten back from the annual SSSR meeting (Society for the Scientific Study of Religion – it’s the society all the sociologists of religion belong to, and the annual meeting is the numero uno occasion for meeting, greeting, presenting papers, networking, etc.) – and someone had told him I was very ill. He told me the name of this person once, but was so flustered he wouldn’t repeat it – so it was a name I recognized, but I’m not sure I can place this person. It’s possible she’s someone who got a job later at a place where I’d had a one-year gig – or came and gave a seminar there? Not someone I know, though possibly someone I’ve met.
Anyway, this person, whoever she is, told C. I was seriously ill. (I’m getting the vibe from C.'s flusteredness that we’re talking either a brain tumor or a nervous breakdown.) WTF? And he believed her and got very upset. And apparently ran around the SSSR trying to find someone who’d have the real scoop, thereby additionally spreading this rumor.
Now, question #1 – and make of it what you will that I’m posting on this before emailing C. to ask question #1 – is, who was this person and exactly what did she say?
Question #2 is, don’t these people have anything better to do at SSSR than gossip about someone who dropped out 15 years ago?
What’s weird is this is the second time I’ve encountered a person from my past who reports to me a rumor that I’d gone seriously off the rails. When I was on “Jeopardy!” ten years ago, one of the people who contacted me was a friend from elementary school, who told me that the rumor had gone around that I’d ended up in a mental institution. :eek: This could be traced to a conversation another person from elementary school had had with my brother – who presumably knew better – when they encountered each other on the train between DC and Philly. The timing of the conversation was such that it might have been a reference to the fact that I entered a hospital to do treatment for my alcoholism in '85, but who knows.
So question #3 is, what makes me so effin’ fascinating that these baroque rumors spring up around me with people from my moss-encrusted past?
Yikes. Off to email C. and find out what’s going on.