Evidently, I’m underachieving.

And I have been for about 50 years.

I realized this when I read about Wolf Cukier, a junior in high school who, on his third day of a summer internship at NASA, discovered a new planet.

Let me tell you what I was doing the summer of my junior year:

Ironing my hair.

Yes, I remember distinctly.

The humidity was terrible, and I was trying desperately to straighten my hair, so I ironed it with a steam iron, every day.

Hold the spray starch.

My hair was my internship.

And yes, it finally went straight.

Because it was dead.

About five inches fell off, but that didn’t stop me, because I was a determined high school junior and my priorities were in the right place.

Back then anything superficial qualified as a priority, mostly involving Clearasil.

Skin-toned, not clear.

This way, my zits were hidden under inexplicable brown flecks, which, when connected, formed Orion!

On his internship, Wolf’s priorities were different. According to the newspaper reports, he read through a lot of data that had been reported to NASA by so-called citizen-scientists.

By the way, did you even know there were citizen-scientists?

I didn’t.

Although I might be one.

Because just now I mixed vitamin C powder in seltzer.

That’s chemistry for English majors.

Meanwhile, would you even know where to send a report to NASA? Much less to flag something that no astrophysicist had noticed?

Me, I can barely catch a typo.

In fact, I just found my Visa card in the trunk of the car.

I have no idea how it got there.

I didn’t even know it was gone.

But to return to point, Wolf read through the reports and zeroed in on a solar system that included two orbiting stars.

I’m not even sure what that means, but let’s not tarry.

The largest body in the system was later verified as a planet about 6.9 times as large as Earth.

Even if I had noticed something weird about a celestial body, I’m not sure I’d race to write to NASA. It’s all I can do to answer my email, considering my demanding schedule of scrolling through the social media of people who are younger, thinner, prettier, or more successful than I am, or failing that, have sex.

The newspaper reports say that Wolf’s colleagues gave the system a name, which was TOI 1338.

That’s where my admiration sours.

TOI 1338 is a bad name.

TOI 1338 is even a bad password.

I think I could think of a better name for a system.

The Wolf Cukier System.

I mean, he deserves it, doesn’t he?

In NASA’s defense, TOI stands for TESS Object of Interest, and TESS stands for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, so it’s an acronym of an acronym, which bottom line, is terrible marketing.

You might be wondering how they do all this, and I read that TESS has cameras that take pictures of a part of the sky every 30 minutes, then scientists use that to observe the brightness of stars. If a star suddenly gets dim, it means that a planet has passed in front of it, or maybe something got in its eye.

Or it had too much to drink.

You know which planet that was.


It’s drunk off its ass.

You would be too, if somebody named you Uranus.

What was NASA thinking?

Do they even speak the language?

Anyway, when Wolf noticed a star dim, he thought it was an eclipse, but then realized the timing was off. And he immediately suspected it might be a new planet.

Of course he did.

According to the newspaper, the human eye is extremely good at finding such patterns in data, but I doubt that my eyes would have noticed a thing.

I can’t even work the remote.

I can never find the mute button.

And just when I remember where it is, I go to Francesca’s in NYC and her mute button is in a different place, which confounds me, for my eyes don’t detect patterns even in inanimate objects.

Wolf was interviewed about how he found the planet, and he answered, “You can’t be arrogant.”

Say what, Wolf?

Of course, you can.

These days, you must.

The reporter asked him if he ever bragged about his discovery, but Wolf said, “It just doesn’t come up in small talk.”

You’re darn tootin’ it does, Wolf.

You need to be bragging your damn head off.

You need to shoehorn that shiz into every conversation you have.

You need to say, “I discovered a planet, bitches.”

If you don’t brag, you’ll never succeed on social media.

Where are your priorities?

Look for Lisa and Francesca Serritella’s humor collection, “I See Life Through Rosé-Colored Glasses,” and Lisa’s novel, “Someone Knows,” in stores now. Also look for Francesca’s debut novel, “Ghosts of Harvard,” coming May 2020.