Thursday, March 09, 2006

An awkward moment

As far as I know, I am not a scary person. My towering 5'0" frame is accented by a physique that showcases the long hours I have spent honing my powerful sitting muscles, in front of the computer. I balance this grueling regimen with an almost-daily walk and, in fairer weather, an occasional bike ride, giving the overall effect of a mostly sedentary Tyrannosaurus Rex.

I'm basically a quiet, patient, bookish person. People tell me I'm a "good listener". On a bad day, I suppose I might bore a less academically-inclined companion with a too-long, over-enthusiastic exploration of an esoteric subject, or annoy someone with a pedantic insistence on precise adherence to my standards of recycling, dishwasher-loading, or towel folding. Even then, I try to get the hint, if one is given, and rein in such tendencies.

The instructors must have recognized all this when they assigned my lab partner. The class, machine shop for engineering students, aimed to make sure that up-and-coming engineers have some inkling of what was involved in machining a part. This particular exercise began with designing the top end of a mating joint in 2" bar stock, and then swapping drawings with classmates to design a bottom end so that the parts all stacked. It was an exercise in tolerances, drawing and machining, as well as communication.

I summoned my lab partner to the computer lab to work out the details. All I remember of the meeting was his dirty, too-small baseball cap, and him underneath it, trembling in terror. I still don't know if he was that antisocial for everybody, or if he had somehow managed to make it to age 20-something without ever speaking with a woman. Whatever the reason, I completed the project by asking yes-no questions about the shortcomings of his drawing, and doing a lot of the work myself.

I hope for his sake, and the sake of his employers and coworkers, that he got over whatever it was. I wonder where he is now.


Anonymous marc said...

I had no other way to contact you, but wanted to say thanks for cleaning up my 'dogballs' entry on wiktionary. You made a great edit and I thank you for that.

11 March, 2006 14:14  

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