Taking those headphones out: Cooper


Katherine Du

A line of fire and emergency trucks respond to an accident in Tysons Corner, as viewed from the Metro, on Aug. 22.

Katherine Du, Editor-in-Chief

Let’s start with the man who first talked to me, and inspired me to “take my headphones out” and get to know at least a slim percentage of the people flowing on and off of the metro.

As I nodded to pop tunes coursing through my earbuds, a man with tufts of clouds for hair turned away from his newspaper. He laid it on his briefcase placed on the metro seat between us. He reminds me of a Cooper, so let’s call him that to preserve anonymity, and I’m guessing he’s in his late 50s.

Cooper tapped me gently. “Do you like science?” he grunts, breathing out a rotting tobacco-like scent as his words hit me.

“Sure,” I answered, somewhat confused and defensive, yet amused.

“Okay, then wanna know a question that will stump basically everyone? What’s the difference between infinite and eternal?”

I thought about it for a while, voicing a descriptive answer Cooper said could be close, although I was sure he was looking for something simpler yet to the point.

“The difference is, infinite has a beginning but no end, while eternal has no beginning and no end. Also, some could say that infinite has to do with space while eternal is related to time.”

“Ohh,” I replied, “that’s really interesting.”

“Yeah, you should ask your friends and parents it, see if they know.”

We started to talk about where he was headed, his workplace. Cooper has been employed as an American Chemical Society database manager for decades, and thoroughly enjoys his job, as it pays very well and has proved to be stable despite economic fluctuations. Cooper did always wish to be a vet, however. I suggested that maybe he could do that on the weekends or during the afternoons, but he said that his job required very long hours and he wouldn’t have the time.

He told me that although he ended up in science, he used to be a philosophy major and that what you study usually doesn’t correlate directly, if at all, to your actual job. He said not to plan out your college experience, or life in general, too carefully. To always be open to exploration and change.

To be open to change. I think that’s an increasingly significant character in the play that is our lives, especifically with this impending school year as summer melts into fall and the last act of our high school career plays out. Then, in less than a year, when the curtain closes on our youth and we’ll start to leave our homes to live in different cities or even countries: we’ll be packing our bags for college or forced to adjust to the rhythm of taking on a first job.

Thanks, Cooper.