What transpired at the JMM

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Last month we skipped the first week of classes and high-tailed it for the west coast, to the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Francisco.  The entire city was abuzz with excitement over this event, as evidenced by the San Francisco International Airport which had an entire ceiling thing devoted to mathematical symbols:

And the meetings were fun, which they always are.  I even got my very own sketch of a Brown Sharpie scaring Godzilla, thanks to Courtney (in response to my lovely rendition of Godzilla threatening to eat said sharpie).

As it happened, the last day was the one that turned out to be the most full of surprises.  And the best one — better even than my last minute “Heylet’sgoseeWickedit’srightdownthestreet!”, which we did, but with muted enjoyment because we’d already checked out of the hotel and had all of our luggage which we had to cram into our seats under our feet and whoa! those theater seats are place pretty close together, with no consideration for people who might bring all their worldly belongings to the theater — happened that last afternoon of the meetings, after the exhibits had shut down and the message board area was starting to get that Morning After look.

What happened is that I went to the tables to hang out for a bit,  and saw my friend Karrolyne at a table.  She and I were roommates in Project NExT way back when, so I sat down and we chatted and the conversation turned to kids.  There was another woman at the table that neither of us knew and she joined in the conversation.   The three of us continued to chat about our different and common experiences, and at one point Mystery Mathematician commented about talking to people she’d never see again, and Karrolyne laughed and said to watch out, because you never know!  The world is small.

A little later, when we’d turned to other topics, I gave Mystery Mathematician my email address so she could send me some math info, and she exclaimed that she recognized the address.  Hmmmm.  Very strange — we didn’t remember meeting before.  Then Karrolyne had to leave and while I was saying goodbye to her, Mystery Mathematician figured out how we knew each other.  It was from HERE!  She jumped up smiling and said “I’m Math Mama Writes!”  Sure enough, this person I’d just been hanging out with was none other than Sue VanHattum, and in fact we’d exchanged some emails recently (hence the recognition of my address) but had never met in person.  Indeed, she didn’t even recognize my name, nor TwoPi [who stopped by the table briefly while we were talking], because we’re all mysterious with the alias’s here [I was “heather360” for about a day when Batman and I started the blog, and then got bored with that and switched to Ξ]. Of course, that raises the question of why I didn’t recognize hers, but I can only guess that it’s because subconsciously I figured she lived in my computer screen in New York.

All in all it was a fantastic surprise.  And though we didn’t have a lot longer to talk — as it was I made it to TwoPi’s talk with about 20 seconds to spare — it was a delight to know that she was just as fun to talk to in real life as I would expect from her blog.

Small world, indeed.

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2 Responses to “What transpired at the JMM”

  1. Sue VanHattum Says:

    Aww shucks, I’m blushing… ;^)

    And now I’ll remember that the funny symbol is Xi, but really it’s for Heather, who was delightful in person. And TwoPi is her sweetie. (I’m sure he’s delightful too, but we barely met.)

    Yep, I told secrets within 5 minutes of meeting someone at the math conference that I normally don’t tell my best friends. Crazy world…

    I hope we’ll have another chance to meet and hang out again, when we know we know each other. It was a sweet moment, Heather! :^)

    I missed getting a chance to meet Dave Richeson, I guess I’ll just have to keep coming to the JMMs, to keep up these long-distance friendships. ;^)

  2. Ξ Says:

    I’ve missed Dave at two meetings now, though we exchanged messages last year (he was signing copies of his book but we’d already planned an excursion to the Smithsonian museums) and discovered around then that I was friends in grad school with a good friend of his family!

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