Like that scene from Bugsy

There is a scene in the Barry Levinson film Bugsy that I absolutely love. Warren Beatty, as the title character, is dashing back and forth from one room in his house to another.

In one room, he is the ruthless mobster Bugsy Siegel. In the other, he is a devoted husband and father, spending quality time with his family.

Nobody except him knows that any of this is going on. And we see his growing desperation as he tries to multitask without slipping up.

Every time he moves between one room and another, he needs to completely transform. At every moment he needs to keep track of who he is supposed to be, and where the conversation left off the last time he left the room.

My day today at work reminded me of that scene. I had a visiting student, a meeting with a Ph.D. student, a group research meeting over Zoom, and several other Zoom meetings to look at other people’s demos and to establish research connections with other faculty. Several of those meetings overlapped, even though they weren’t supposed to.

For much of that time I was playing phone tag with the secretary in a doctor’s office, while also trying to cancel some plane flights before it was too late. Each of these meetings and events asked me to put on a different hat, so to speak.

I still love that scene from Bugsy, but now I also like how it helps me to appreciate one of the best things about movies: They are not real.

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