Oh, You Are Bruce’s Brother

It was as predictable as fall.  During roll call on the first day when the teacher got to my name he or she would look up and say, “Oh, you are Bruce’s Brother” and I knew what that implied. 

When he isn’t around me to hear, I tell people that Bruce is the most intelligent person that I have ever met.  I don’t just mean smart.  I mean crazy smart.   Being the next brother in line always made feel like it was something that people also expected of me.   He never made me feel that way: I just did. 

When it became time to pick a college, I told my parents that, even thought I was accepted, I did not want to go to Stanford because Bruce was there.   They told me to get over it.  That Stanford was huge, there was a year between us AND, we weren’t even going to be studying the same thing.  It was convincing so I went. 

The class that all Freshman take is Psych 1 with Phillip Zimbardo (you gotta google him) as the professor.   It was taught in an auditorium that held about a thousand students and the first day all my new Freshman friends from the dorm and I tromped off to class.  Zimbardo came onto stage in a cape and TA’s quickly handed out the class syllabus.   On the final page was a list of the top scoring students in the history of the class and as I scanned down the list, one of my new friends said, “Dude, your brother is on this list”.  And so it continued... 

It was time to give up the fight and just enjoy the situation, so while in college we roomed together for a year and even took a class together.  Hum Bio 10, otherwise knows as Human Sexuality taught me many things.  But, strangely it was because I sat next to Bruce at every lecture.  I learned that my eyesight was poor because Bruce could read the sub-titles on the slides and I couldn’t. I learned that my brother truly is gifted.  It seemed that he never forgot a single thing that he read or saw.  He always paid attention, even during the “Sex throughout history” lectures that were truly boring.  Without any prompting or annoyance, he help me study for tests and checked in with me when homework was due. Oh, and he read all the slides to me during lectures.

We used to vacation at a wonderful PG&E lodge on the Pit River and, one time, Steve brought a computer along.  It was one of those early Macintosh Computers - probably a Macintosh SE and it had a program that promised to measure your IQ in 45 minutes.   At some point, I sat down and started though the questions, and with a flourish clicked the “I’m Done” button proudly while the timer read 29.5 minutes.  

Then, I watched Bruce sit down and take the test.  He went through each problem quickly and answered the “easy” ones.  Then he went back and spent some time on each of the more difficult ones, never spending too much time on any one problem.  Then, he went back and spent more time on the few tough ones.  Finally, he went back through every problem slowly reading it and checking his answers.  At 45 minutes, the computer STOPPED him.  After a moment a dialog box came up that said “Unable to calculate an IQ because you answered every question correctly.  In order to calculate the upper end of an IQ, an applicant must be presented with questions that are unable to answer.” 

Today, every student who studies for the SAT knows these test taking skills.  But, they weren’t something taught to us back then.  Bruce just figured them out.  I was proud of myself for finishing early, but that didn’t get me any extra credit.  

I joke with people in town that you don’t WANT to meet my brother professionally.  If you do, either you or someone in your family is in need of an ER visit.  But, if you NEED an ER visit there is nobody you should be more happy to see.  Because he remembers everything he has ever seen or read.  Because he remembers every other patient who has walked through the doors.  Because he is a kind and compassionate person who can knows how to communicate to the rest us and, while he is at it, he will read the subtitles on the slides.

You rock, Dr. Bruce.