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"Mad Men And Mango Lemonade"

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Although I only met her for the first time when she rolled into our studio, Jean Berko Gleason is my neighbor. In fact, she lives about a fifteen-minute walk from my house. So when we needed to get some video footage of Jean driving her beloved Subaru WRX, I was clearly the man for the job.

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Jean and her WRX, both luminous and just right

When I arrived at Jean’s house she immediately plied me with some mango lemonade (delicious, just as she’d promised), and we talked about “Mad Men” (“you’ve got to remember,” she said, “that show is about my time”). Jean may be a Professor Emerita, but that must mean the literal translation of “Emerita” is “incredibly busy with about a thousand projects, many of which relate to psycholinguistics and some of which don’t.” Jean doesn’t teach anymore, but she told me she gets new ideas for research just about every day. And she continues to do that research and to publish new papers. We’d all be doing well if we were nearly as awake to the world as Jean Berko Gleason.

Jean did, however, have one piece of bad news to share with me. Her WRX is, of course, a manual shift transmission, because that’s way more fun than an automatic and because it helps her drive fast… um, efficiently. But Jean told me she’s now thinking she might have to switch to an automatic transmission. “Ah,” I thought, “she must be slowing down. Managing the stick shift and the clutch isn’t as easy as it used to be.” Of course, I was wrong. The reason Jean’s switching to an automatic? None of her younger friends knows how to drive a stick, and she’d like to be able to share the driving with them on road trips. I should have known better. The only reason Jean would ever slow down is to let everyone else catch up.