Yesterday, months of planning culminated into the world’s nerdiest marriage proposal.
I asked Kendra Snyder to marry me in the opened-up guts of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory. (Where Kendra works as a science writer/communicator/public information officer-type.)
More specifically, I asked her on scaffolding below the center of RHIC’s 1,200-ton STAR detector. This house-sized machine examines the hot soup of energy present just moments after the Big Bang, which physicists recreate by colliding gold ions near the speed of light.
Make as many symbolic interpretations as you’d like — I chose the location for a lot of reasons! — but the truth is I wanted us to have a great story to tell. A ridiculously nerdy, epic and smile-prompting story.
So how did things go down? Here’s the skinny from each of our perspectives.
Kendra goes about her normal Friday afternoon routine. Things are winding down and she’s looking forward to coming home.
Just before 4:00 p.m., Kendra’s boss Pete pulls her aside to say he has received an unusual phone call from a physicist at RHIC. The physicist — aka Bill — found a rare crystalline deposit in RHIC’s beamline at the STAR detector, he says, and needs her to go down and see if it’s worth writing a story about.
Conveniently, Pete and all of Kendra’s other coworkers are tied up. Even Kendra’s eager intern turns down the opportunity to see this bizarre deposit and the giant detector.
How weird, Kendra thinks.
After a 5-minute drive, she meets Bill the physicist at the fiveish-story loading dock outside of the detector’s chamber. Bill starts to spout mumbo-jumbo about beamline metals, collision energies, crystallization environments, chemical reactions, and so on. They walk behind an enormous concrete radiation shield and there is the colossal detector, recently opened up for its usual summer maintenance period.
They walk up a dual staircase and onto a platform just below the particle beamline. “And that’s the kind of crystal we found,” says Bill, and quickly scurries down the other side of the staircase. It’s a diamond ring in a box.
Kendra shouts in disbelief as Dave appears out of nowhere behind her. He grabs the box, takes a kneel and does the deed.
Outside the detector room, dozens of Kendra’s coworkers await to celebrate with cake and champagne.
Dave gets up just as Kendra’s leaving their apartment, around 7:00 a.m., and starts baking a cake. A few hours later he gathers up his camera, video gear, the cake and a few other important items (i.e. the ring), then runs out the door to catch a train to Brookhaven.
Oops — the subway is all messed up, so he hails a cab. The cab asks where Dave is going, and Dave makes the mistake of telling him just a few blocks. Off drives the cab driver.
Dave runs to the other side of the street thinking he’ll find a less grumpy cab driver, but strikes out. In a public transportation Hail Mary, he hops on the bus — the wrong bus — and hops off. Then he kills precious minutes waiting for the right bus.
The right bus is a circus. It’s slow, people are paying in nickels, and Dave thinks, “My crap, I could ROLL to the train station faster than this.” He misses his train, and grumpily kills time in a cafe, where he hops on his computer and fools Kendra into thinking he’s at work.
Luckily, Dave catches the next train. But unluckily, his four one-way tickets are all expired.
The overzealous conductor decides to show his trainee how to ruin someone’s day. I don’t have enough cash to pay off this conductor, thinks Dave, followed by lots of internal monologue filled with !@#$s and %^&*s. But he does, forks over the $14.00, and gets picked up by Zeynep, Kendra’s friend/coworker, at the train station around 1:30 p.m.
They waste little time alerting the other troops that Dave’s secret plan is in motion. Dave and Zeynep head over to STAR for a dry run where Bill the physicist awaits.
After hiding the cake, some champagne, a video camera and Zeynep (who’s armed with a big dSLR camera), Dave ducks behind a wall and waits for Kendra.
As she walks through the door and into the detector room, Dave sneaks up behind her and — right as she sees the ring — grabs it and kneels down.
And they lived as huge nerds happily ever after.
Video: Dave Mosher
Images: Dave Mosher and Zeynep Altinbas