I’m not sure exactly how I got to know Postyn Smith ’15. He’s one of those solid dudes that almost everyone has at least heard of. Being the student with two enormous foot casts last year – after breaking both ankles in a steeplechase – might have something to do with it. I ran into the physics major and outdoor stud at a party on Friday, and since Smith (whose given first name is Herbert) had a weekend full of bouldering and kayaking ahead, we quickly chatted about his glory days on snowshoes, scooters and Robitussin.
So, last year I knew you as the kid with –
Yeah, you were Scooter Boy because you had two broken ankles and had to get around on one of those leg scooters.
I was doing my first steeplechase race, and on the first lap, first water pit ever, I landed wrong after clearing the whole water barrier and broke both ankles.
So you broke both ankles because you were too good?
Well, unless you’re Olympic-quality, you’re not really supposed to jump that far. They can keep running. I just crumpled on the track. But scootering was actually faster than walking around campus. Going down Mission Hill was pretty fun.
I remember when the Springstreakers rolled through the libraries around midterms and you literally rolled through on your scooter. It was pretty legendary.
It was pretty fun except the terrifying factor of the first stair drop. And then that sharp corner when we were coming around the door by the GIS [Geographic Information Systems] lab – the glass door swung open and I couldn’t hit my brakes fast enough, and I slammed into it straight on. I envisioned myself lying naked and bloody in a pile of glass in Schow. Luckily, the door swung the other way too so it was fine. I think I was the last one out of the library, but I made it!
Speaking of racing, I didn’t even know that something like a National Snowshoeing Team existed – but you were on it.
Yeah, I was on the junior national team my freshman year. It’s pretty much like cross-country running, but you’re running with snowshoes on the snow. Nationals were in Colorado that year, so I went home to compete. It’s pretty funny-looking – a lot of people fall when they’re running downhill because they get kind of out of control. And if I don’t go abroad, Nationals this year is at Prospect [Park], 20 minutes away from [the College]. So that would be pretty sweet.
What are you doing with your phone?
I’m getting rid of apps because I just figured out how.
Did you just download iOS7 [for iPhone]?
I did just download iOS7. I feel like I’m in a spaceship of colors right now.
You mentioned you took Robitussin [cough medicine] tonight because you’re feeling a bit under the weather. Sounds like you might be Robotripping right now. To what extent would you say that’s true, on a scale of one to 10?
[Laughs.] I did take Robitussin. I would love to say I’m more than a five on the Robotrip scale, but I’d have to go with somewhere around four.
I hear you like to live life on the edge.
Have I told you the story of how I sound like a terrible alcoholic? So, this summer when I was leading bike trips from Maine to Quebec, we had just crossed the border to Canada, and I got a text from the leaders who were a day ahead of us and were like, “Oh, we left something for you in a tras can on the American side.” One of them had just turned 21, so my co-leader Posie was like, “Oh, you have to go, you have to go!” So I go to the border and when they asked me why I’m going back, I lied and said one of my kids threw away his gloves, and this guy has a gun and a bulletproof vest, and I walk over to the trash can next to the duty free, and as I’m going through it I realize how bad of an idea it is! They could’ve thought I was looking for a bomb or something.
Did you find anything?
No! And I talked to the guys the next day, and they were like “Oh, we didn’t buy anything, we just saw three unopened PBR [Pabst Blue Ribbon] tallboys.”
You’ve mentioned before that being responsible for a gaggle of children this summer made you think a lot about parenting.
Well, I’ve never really been responsible for anyone besides myself. It made me really appreciate what my parents did for me and the hard work they put in to keep me safe. I would say my parents are my “ride or die.” My co [leader] and I definitely talked a lot about the prospect of having kids.
You mean after a few weeks biking together you were –
[Laughs.] No, no, no, we were by all means not trying to add another kid to the trip. I think the conclusion was that a kid is not a part of my life I want in the next five to 10 years.
[Looks out window.] Whoa, look at that moon. It’s enormous.
Yeah, I was driving to North Adams yesterday when the moon was full, and my friend mentioned that it looked like we were getting closer, but I explained why we weren’t because of physics.
[Laughs.] Do you reconcile your love of physics with your love of the outdoors by explaining natural phenomena like that? It’ll be interesting to see if you pursue your crunchy side or your physics side after school.
Well, really all the options I see myself having after school are more on the crunchy side. I think other physics majors get more enjoyment out of lab work and a lifetime of physics research. This summer, I went rock climbing for two weeks before leading the bike trips. Then I went to Chamonix, France, on a Wilmer’s [Language Fellowship] to start studying French. So I could see myself working for the trip company again, or getting another fellowship to do something outdoor-oriented.
What made you want to learn French this late in your college career?
Well, a year ago when they announced the discovery of the Higgs Boson [particle] I got really excited, and I realized I could go to CERN [the European Organization for Nuclear Research] and discover the world if only I knew French. So I’m learning a romance language so I can study physics. [Laughs.] But I’m still trying to figure out why it’s the language of love.