There are many types of people in the world. I had an encounter with two radically different ones in a short train ride from Bay Fair to Union City.
It all started with CSS. I was sitting on the Dublin/Pleasanton BART train fixing up my CSS code for my personal web portfolio. This usually never piques anyone’s interest back in New York or Durham, but in the Bay Area, a place where web developers, software engineers, hardware engineers and computer scientists flourish, more people can relate. I get off at Bay Fair stop to make the transfer, and the man who was sitting next to me gets off as well. He seemed to be in his 50’s and he was quite curious about what I was doing and struck up a conversation.
“So is that CSS you’re playing with? What are you writing it for? Work or school?
I replied that I was doing it for personal reasons, and told him that I was a freelance designer working on developing my programming skills and a website that displayed my work. He was shocked when I told him that I was a Duke student and even more surprised when I told him that I was majoring in both CS and Visual Arts.
“What the heck—excuse me for my language, but Duke?! What are you doing out here? Wow, you’re a rare kind, not many of the people I work with or have seen are hybrid designers and developers.”
As we got onto the Union City bound BART train, he revealed that he was a math major and a hardware developer. We engaged in an extremely mathematical and analytical conversation about computer science and it seemed to have sparked some sort of passion in the girl behind us, who was within earshot of everything we were saying.
“Yeah, and I have 5 iPods and iPads and computers and blah blah blah, whatever.” she said aloud, breaking our stream of thought. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but technology is ruining our lives.”
She looked us both in the eye.
“You guys are talking about all your f—king computers. You know what? People who do all this techy stuff aren’t don’t sh-t, they’re sitting on their asses and they think they’re helping the world, but they aren’t. Go outside. Plant a f—king tree, for goodness sake.”
I was grinning, amused. The man appeared fairly flustered, appalled that there could be a young girl with such a radical opinion. She waved her hand at me,
“See what you were talking about, needing time for poetry and art and stuff, that’s beautiful. That’s what I want to hear.”
It seemed like she appreciated my explanation for switching out of the engineering curriculum and pursuing something that involved both the logical and creative world.
The man quickly realized that we couldn’t back out of the impending discussion of technology’s role in our lives and the ethical implications of certain technological advancements. He tried approaching it from the girl’s point of view.
“Yeah, with the genetic engineering of pigs and all that you can’t deny that some things aren’t doing this world any good.”
This grabbed the girl’s attention.
“Hold on, hold on. What’s happening? Genetic engineering? Genetic modifications? Guys, the best thing for this world is wilderness. We need diversity and the best way to do it is through nature. You can’t genetically create wilderness, you can’t genetically create anything, it’s not right, and it’s not pure. Think about that.”
Before I knew it, it was time to leave for my stop, and I was sad to leave such an intriguing mix of opinions and people. I bid them both a nice day proceeded to make my next transfer.