Sunday, November 13, 2011

Just Throwing It Out There

I was a graduate student, and hated speaking in front of crowds.  But I was appointed the task of database organizer for the pool of volunteers that our psychology department maintained to perform student research projects, and I had to do it.  And I had to make the idea of taking part in student research projects fun and interesting.

If you took psychology in college, you probably had to participate in one or more research studies run by student researchers, receiving credit in Psych 101 for performing often boring and meaningless tasks in student research projects.  Likely no one did a test on the effects of marijuana use on anything, which was probably why you took Psych 101 in the first place.  Yeah, I was disappointed too.

It was the first time I had to make the speech to a crowd of bored, judgmental undergrads.  I went to a pretty highbrow school for my graduate degree, and the undergrads there were privileged and smart.  As a graduate student, I was certainly not privileged.  I may have been smart, but there’s something about a roomful of National Merit Scholars that makes you doubt how to spell your own name.  Okay, that’s just me.

I practiced my speech dozens of times, memorized it a couple of different ways, and entered the large classroom with my classmate, who would be handing out information to the students and providing moral support for me.  I stood at the front of the auditorium, hands in pockets, silently willing the internal butterflies to leave.  The professor got the students’ attention, introduced me, and waited for the room to quiet down so I could speak.

I raised my hand to start speaking.  I regretted this decision immediately as the tampon that I had stashed in my pocket just moments before launched into the air in a high arc.  Time slowed as two hundred pairs of eyes focused on its trajectory, one pair in horror.  I recoiled as the offensive object landed with a light thud.  Time stopped, along with my heart.  I wanted to run, cry, vomit.  I wished for a natural disaster, a heart attack, a diversion other than the embarrassing feminine hygiene product that now gleamed, mocking, from its resting place at my feet.

My classmate, hero, savior, shot out a foot quick as lightning to cover the beast, discreetly dragging it away from my shocked form.  She gave me a little nudge, and I proceeded to give the quickest “please sign up for research projects” speech that school has seen before or since.  We tore out of there.

Once outside, we gaped, amazed at what had transpired: me, troubled and wide-eyed; her, proud and clearly tickled.  At once, we howled with laughter.  I mumbled what a stupid thing to happen, thank you for saving me.  We laughed again.

That semester marked the largest percentage of Psych 101 students ever to keep their appointments for student research projects at my school.*  Do research on THAT.

El Diablo


*totally made up