I needed an expert on cat vision. Off I went to the web and found perhaps THE expert on cat vision—and rattlesnake vision, for that matter. Instead of the typical preliminary, “I’m a children’s book author writing…” email, I impulsively called the neurobiology department of his university and got put through.
When this guy, who spends his days teaching people about the human eye and colorblindness, heard I actually wanted to talk about cats (and rattlesnakes, for that matter), he was thrilled. This is my life’s work, he said, and I rarely get to talk about it with anybody who’s really interested.
Well, finding people like him is MY life’s work and one of the best things about my job. I start learning about a new topic and after the general stuff, I want more. I want the facts that make the subject sparkle. I want to instantly gain the perspective that takes years of thought and study to develop. And I know that lonely expert can give it to me, if only I can find him or her.
We all love to talk about our work, what occupies us for so many hours each day. Doubtless we love to share it more than others love to listen. But when my expert started in on nanometers and photoreceptors, I was as passionately interested in hearing what he had to say as he was in telling me.
It was, as they say, the beginnng of a beautiful (although temporary!) relationship.