So there we were, standing in line outside of chemistry lab, waiting to go in for our first day of lab. I felt like a dumbass – not only was I wearing a lab coat three sizes too big, so I looked like a short, Jewish Hogwarts wizard, but I was also wearing scrubs over my shorts because damned if I was going to wear pants in 95 degree heat. All the postbacs with me were chatting, doing our usual intimidation of the undergrads who are standing around wondering “how the hell do all these people know each other already, it’s day one of summer session.” They looked scared. And young.
The lab started at 10:30; the TA’s are supposed to let us in early to get settled so we start on time. This doesn’t happen. At 10:29 and 59 seconds (I checked) we were allowed to enter The Meat Locker aka lab. Upon entering, the TA’s start yelling at us like drill sergeants, hollering, “GET READY RIGHT NOW AND COME OVER HERE WE NEED TO START IMMEDIATELY COME ON COME ON COME ON!”
Understandably, we were a little shocked at this change of pace. In lecture, our professor Dr. M gives us cute little catchphrases (“I’m a perfect king,” “D’y’all see?” and “fits in our back pocket”) and tells us stories of blowing up a river with a block of sodium. Fifteen minutes later, we walked into the TA version of Samuel L Jackson from Pulp Fiction. Ouch.
We gathered around a lab bench where the harried lead TA, an early-thirties educator who clearly has no love for Gen Chem Lab, started to show us how to do the lab. She was moving a little slowly, and her initial statement of “WE NEED TO GET MOVING IMMEDIATELY SO WE CAN BE STARTING IN TEN MINUTES OR YOU’LL NEVER FINISH YAAAAAAAH” revealed itself to be a small prevarication. She’d been talking about dripping some random acid into another random base and warning us of the horrible side effects of getting some on your skin, like getting a small burn or being instantaneously turned into a leprechaun, when Kathy-Bates-in-a-lab-coat walked in.
Oh shit. This was the lab manager, and she is the scariest person at the university. Picture Kathy Bates from The Waterboy, with long grey hair pulled back into a ponytail and wearing a ratty old lab coat. Oh and with a strong Southern Virginia accent.
Now, we were already afraid of KB, because she gave us a lecture at check-in on how if we break anything, we have to pay for it; she also exacts a blood tribute for each item of broken glassware, using the broken glassware as her knife. Okay maybe I’m making up the blood tribute part, but this is a seriously intimidating woman.
KB looked extremely upset, which granted is her default expression, and gave a KB Stare of Doom to the lead TA.
“They need to get started. NOW. No more talking.”
Lead TA hopped to. “Okay, GO!” she shouted, and everyone scurried away like extremely nerdy ants. Because Lead TA’s lecture dawdled on the eye wash station for fifteen minutes, we actually didn’t get any background on how to DO any of the lab, so we had to mostly wing it. Yes, forty or so brand-new chemistry students were running around a lab carrying concentrated melt-your-face acid with practically no idea what they were doing. Thanks, KB.
Fast-forward two hours, and most of us are barely half-done with the lab. I looked up, anxious, to see where others were in their procedure, just twenty minutes before we would get kicked out (and receive a 0 for the entire day besides), and saw the kid across from me mixing something together. He watched it smoke and turn green. I looked at my notes; that particular reaction was definitely NOT supposed to turn green. In fact, nothing was supposed to turn green. We made eye contact, and I could see that dull panic behind his eyes. It’s that same dull panic that you see in the eyes of a squirrel as it debates whether or not to make the mad dash for that nut your car is about to roll over.
KB reappeared at 1:15. Lab “terminates” – her words – at 1:30, and she is in full Angry KB mode. “HEY! I NEED EVERYONE TO STOP WHAT THEY’RE DOING RIGHT NOW!”
All activity ceased and forty pairs of eyes turned toward Angry KB. “Y’ALL ARE GONNA GET A ZERO!” she yelled, and stormed out. Lead TA looked like she’d just eaten something that would shortly induce vomiting. Everything suddenly made sense: the reason KB was so angry was because she hated the TA’s! Considering their general diffidence and lack of knowledge about our lab, this violent hatred was understandable, but unfortunately that meant KB took out her rage on the class.
A week later, I was stopped at corner coming back from the grocery store and saw KB blast through a red light at the intersection in a old, POS red Celica. Maybe she just has anger management issues.