Off DeWall: Where Everybody Knows Your Name (and Your Order)

          What television shows remind you of your early childhood? I grew up in the 1980s, which makes reruns of The Cosby Show, Family Ties, and Cheers all qualify as nostalgic programming. As I left the office today, I felt as if I was living part of the theme song from Cheers: “You want to go where everybody knows your name.”              

     Today began my long goodbye to Australia. Although I’ll be here another two full days, it was my last day at the office. It’s been a terrific time. When I arrived, I had three work-related objectives. First, I needed to give a research talk and a writing workshop. I got them out of the way last week, and they were a blast. Second, I wanted to build a stronger collaborative relationship with my host, Tom. Check! We have one new paper ready to be written and two more in the wor

ks. Very productive. Third, I had to continue my science writing for the work I’m doing with my colleagues at Kentucky and elsewhere. This has also been a success. By the time I leave on Monday, I will have submitted three new manuscripts for publication. I met my three objectives.

          But I didn’t realize there were a host of other things I didn’t anticipate that were at least as rewarding as accomplishing my work goals. For example, I loved how much the graduate students and faculty were collegial and social. Every day I would see a graduate student or faculty member who would greet me by my name and ask me how my visit was going. I can’t remember a time when I felt left out, ignored, or excluded since I’ve arrived. Just a swell of acceptance.

         It didn't end there. Remember me mentioning how much I liked the Malaysian laksa soup that they serve here? I became addicted to it. In the nine days I was on campus, I ate laksa soup seven times. I ordered it so many times that when I went to lunch today for my farewell bowl, the lady at the counter wrote my usual order down and asked if I wanted a receipt. (There are lots of different ways you can get your laksa soup. See my earlier post about how I’m a creature of habit.)

         Having a productive work trip is one thing, but feeling connected to the people I’m visiting is worth as much as any paper I’ll ever write. From that perspective, I’ll be living Sydney a rich man. The people who made Cheers were on to something: People want to go where they feel recognized and valued. I’m lucky that I can experience that in Australia and Kentucky.