Strangers on a Train


This morning, like most mornings, I grabbed a copy of the Metro and headed straight for the crossword puzzle. I generally try to pace myself to finish it by the time I hit Central, three stops away from Davis. However, this morning, a fellow passenger interrupted me at about Harvard to ask how the Metro crossword compared to the Boston Globe crossword. I was a little surprised, and slightly annoyed that he broke my rhythm, but I was polite and told him it was approximately the same level of difficulty, but that I really preferred the Times.
He then proceeded to ask me what I do and I treaded lightly, not quite sure who this random stranger was. Eventually, I mentioned that I was going to grad school in computer science in the fall and he asked me what area. When I responded natural language processing, he immediately perked up. His (London based) company, he explained, was starting a Boston branch and looking for developers. One of the board members is a Stanford professor – the PhD advisor to the guys who took time off to found Google. He also wrote one of the earliest natural language parsers back in the late 60s and their company would be developing similar knowledge representation and parsing algorithms. The man then gave me his card, the guest username and password to the company’s website, told me to check it out and said that if I was interested in working for them, I should send him my resume.
“I saw the speedy crossword solving and the brass rat,” he said. “I figured it was worth striking up a conversation.”
My question is, where was this guy when I was looking for a job last summer? Also, I never did finish the crossword.


10 responses

  1. Ah, Serendipity!
    I say “Be astonished — and joyful!” and “Choose always to be surprised!”
    This was a good moment.

  2. Serendipity has always been a big guiding force in my life…
    For awhile I thought it would be a good name for a daughter, with the nickname Sara. Other people have told me that it’s not a good idea because the poor girl would probably get stuck with the nickname “Dippy” instead.

  3. It’s a bad idea because she would be under the impression that she was a fortunate surprise, but an accident nonetheless.
    Dippy shmippy.
    It’s like naming your kid “Ooops!”
    Oh, and rock on by the way. Michigan is awesome. As are London based companies.

  4. Strangers on a train

    Who says the Metro’s just good for messing up the T? Erin’s ripping through the Metro crossword on the Red Line this morning when another passenger notices how fast she’s going. Before she gets off the train, she has his business card and

  5. Crossword entry warrants a Dan comment. (How come in all the years I’ve walked around with entire books of crosswords, nobody’s interviewed me?)
    I haven’t done the Globe xword many times, but my impression is that in terms of quality it’s at least three times as good as the Metro. Metro crosswords bite. But they serve their purpose. For a while I was trying to work on doing the Metro between Harvard and Kendall (which is frankly more a test of speed-writing than solving.) Then I decided there are probably more productive uses of my time. 🙂

  6. Admittedly, I don’t do the Globe crossword that often so I probably don’t have a good gauge on the difficulty level. However, for awhile when I was working EC Desk I used to note that the crossword in the Tech was usually the same as the one in the Globe. And I usually zipped through the ones in the Tech, so that was my basis of comparison.
    But really, I prefer the New York Times puzzles – they tend to be much more clever in both individual clues and themes. Not that I time myself on them or plan on posting the times here. 🙂 I was just proud of myself for finishing Sunday’s puzzle during the course of two episodes of Cosby without out once asking anyone for help.

  7. Why Serendipity AKA Sara is not a goo idea:
    serendipity is the intervention of an uplifting power that gives the soul flight, while Sara means sorrow – the unnecessary but nonetheless too often actual emotion that comes most often as the result of feeling “knocked down.”
    Serendiipty (like some other first names I have known;-) may or may not be appreciated by a recipient child but would likely, at least well before the end, be understood by that maturing child to have been meant as both “well” and as a gift of imagination and spirit: both for her’s and from “their’s.”

  8. BTW…have you paused to wonder whether your Serendipitous Stranger and The Foon’s Foolish Crossword Fiend might have been one in the same?

  9. On naming a child, I say go for it. Despite the “Amelia Bedelia” taunts of my younger days, I love having a somewhat unique name. I need to find myself a hippie man who’s okay naming a child “Marygold” — Mary for short.
    As for the random “interview” — God works in mysterious ways. I’d say pursue it to the end. While education does have a value in and of itself, the main goal is to get you a career and a life that you love. If this company is legit, and the job is what you want, you’ve achieved the goal — at least for now. If nothing else, it’s experience and a few more dollars in your pocket before more college. (Oh, btw, this post came back as “questionable content” because I said c-a-s-h. Evil, I know.)