Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Captain's Log, Day 190: Careful What You Ask For...

         Ah, my college years: back when I was an overworked, irritated, cranky little s**t. (I'm still a little s**t, but I'm less cranky and overworked now.) This story happened during spring tours during my junior year; incoming prospects were being shown around campus, the engineering students such as myself were burned out with year-end projects, and the deans were busy bragging about how awesome this campus was and how educational it would be to come here while neglecting to mention the f*****g price tag.

         Okay, I might still be a little bitter about the whole "college experience" thing.

         Anyway, my roommate and fellow engineering student ("Ben") and I were frantically trying to finish up our lab reports in time for submission when the dean of engineering waltzed through the big double doors to the lab. (We were behind because our tutoring jobs both ran super long and we weren't allowed to leave before the students.) The dean ordered us to stop what we were doing and to clean up the lab immediately! Ben and I looked around, noting all the boxes of lab supplies that were left out by delivery people, and pointed out that a) we really needed to get this lab report done (10% of our grade, ffs) and b) hey, not our mess and not our job. The dean countered by saying that if we didn't comply, he'd tell our lab instructor to give us zeros on the assignment anyway, that it was our fault for not being more prepared, and finished by saying, "You need to make this lab spotless! We want the tour to be memorable for these new students, and you will help to make it memorable!"

         The lab instructor heard the last half of the rant, as he walked in the door about the same time as the dean walked back out. He sighed and shook his head. "Sorry, guys...tell you what, I'll try to push back the submission deadline an hour for you guys. Fair?"

         Ben and I both shrugged, already resigned to the fact that the lab instructor, while sincere, had a very minimal idea of how computers worked and certainly had no idea how to change a submission deadline. I pushed Ben out of the way of the computer. "You start. I'll finish the BSing here." (It was universally acknowledged that I was the best writer in the class; despite dyslexia, I had been raised by an English major mother and thus knew how to write absolute volumes about stuff I knew nothing about. In this case, I actually did know the assignment, so I figured I'd use spell check as a crutch and slam this bugger out.)

         My roomie got started. I got typing. 45 minutes later, I had our assignment finished and submitted, so I went to go help Ben with unpacking of boxes (doofus wouldn't let me near the box crusher; knowing my habits of experimentation and recklessness, that was probably a good idea on his part). I was the lucky bugger who found the box of industrial breath masks--the big particle ones that made you look vaguely like Bane from Batman--and got a brilliant idea. Donning one, I turned to Ben. "What did the good doctor say about making the prospectives' visit...memorable?"

         He gave me the stink-eye. "Would you stop fooling with that and help?"

         "I am helping!" I protested, pitching my voice deeper. "I'm also...planning--"

         He threw a box at my head. "Practice your evil villain monologue later."

         "We both know I'm the antihero," I shot back, blocking the box. "You're the villain. You even have a goatee."

         He stroked it thoughtfully, looking evil. "Good point."

         "Anyway, listen," I ordered...then in great detail, I told him my plan.

         Now, a little backstory--er, scenery details. The engineering building was built into a hill. The first and second floors both had ground-level access at right angles in the architecture. We were on the first floor; the double lab doors opened out to face the double doors about twelve feet away that led outside (to the east. This was so big lab equipment could be wheeled into the lab with minimal fuss. Walk up the hill, and you could wrap around the building to the south entrance if you so chose. (Spoiler alert: we were about to so choose.)

         Ben and I finished putting the supplies away, then geared up. We donned the breath masks, lab googles, full lab coats, heavy-duty chemical gloves and coveralls, shoe covers, hair covers--the works. You could hardly tell our ethnicity, much less who we were. Then, we chose our weapons. I opted for a beaker, which I half-filled with dish soap and hot water and shook like one of those Shake Weight (TM) things I saw on the late-night shopping channel that one time I drank too much root beer and couldn't fall asleep. I also grabbed some tongs, because why not. Ben opted for a voltmeter that he taped random crap to and very carefully covered in foil, to make it look even more scientific and scary. He coupled that with a fire extinguisher that he pulled off the wall and dipped in some dish soap suds to make it look like it had already been used. Appropriately geared up and armed, we crouched by the lab's double doors and peered through the crack between them. (There was no center post--great for spying.)

         We were just in time. The dean was there, with about twelve to fifteen prospective students and their families. The prospectives looked bored. The parents looked like they were trying to feign interest. The little kids in the group were fidgety. The dean looked pompous. It was the perfect combination. (I almost ruined it by snickering, but I was able to restrain myself by biting my tongue as hard as I could.)

         The dean was in the process of pontificating on all the amazing things this lab had to offer and how we were the best engineering school in the area (we were in bumf**k Midwest, it's not like there was any competition for a couple hundred miles) and how the lab that they were about to see was the safest--

         I was wondering why he didn't do this speech in the damned lab--preframing, I guess; the lab was nothing special--when Ben nudged me. Oh, yeah, that was our cue.

         We backed up, then blew through those doors like a rival linebacker through our football team's defense, screaming "LOOK OUT! IT'S GONNA BLOW!!" at the top of our lungs. I made sure to slop a little foam out my beaker as I ran, just to add to the ambiance. We crashed through the outer doors and took off up the hill and around the side of the building. Glancing back as we took the corner, I saw the first of the prospectives--the ones with reflexes faster than our team's defense, apparently--running away from the building.

         Ben and I made tracks--we got in the south doors, ran down the back stairs, and reentered the lab from the other side. The double lab doors had swung shut in our absence, but a peak through the crack showed that it wouldn't have mattered--the dean was outside trying to round up the tour, who had scattered to the four winds. We stripped off our gear in record time (I accidentally pantsed myself, I was in such a hurry) and put everything away. We rinsed out the beakers, Ben tossed the voltmeter chimera in his bag for breakdown later, and I hung the extinguisher back up. Then, we grabbed a few textbooks and sat down at one of the tables, pretending to be studious. (I told Ben to turn his book right-side up for more realism.)

         We didn't have to hurry. It was a good five minutes before the doors opened and the dean entered, leading the dubious tour. Man, if looks to kill, we'd have been dead and buried on the spot. He ushered the tour through awfully quickly, given the length of his prior speech, and gave us one last death glare as he headed out the other side. A couple of the kids looked at me questioningly. I winked at them; they nodded, started snickering, and continued on their merry way.

         Ben and I were recipients of a lecture later from the dean on proper decorum and taking pride in our school or some such baloney. I interrupted to ask innocently, "Why? Was the lab not clean enough? Or did we not do enough to make the tour memorable?" which led to our dismissal from his presence due to blood pressure issues.

         A new rule was added to the school shortly thereafter, in the laboratory section: students shall not handle any lab supplies without a faculty member present. However, we were never asked to--nay, we were banned from--putting new supplies away again.

         (Got an A on the report, by the way. I'm not sure if it was good enough to warrant that, but the lab instructor had a sense of humor and I never turned down a good grade...)

         This was originally posted to Reddit...decided it needed to go here as well!

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