Sunday, November 23, 2008

Eating Your Words

So, didja ever have one of those days when you said something that sounded different in your head than it did out loud? Or maybe when you said something without thinking and regretted the words the instant they were out of your mouth?

Back before I went to vet school, I was a graduate student in the Fisheries and Wildlife Biology department. During that time I had a TA-ship with a professor who taught Public Relations to budding wildlife biologists. One day, he asked me to go with two of the undergrads and give a program to one of the local grade schools.

The two undergrads were in their early twenties, young men who were work-study students for Professor D. I was only a few years older, maybe 26 or so, but they were endearingly respectful and seemingly almost awed by my status as [insert angel choirs and ethereal light here] a Graduate Student. They were oh-so-careful to get all the props together and offered to carry the heaviest ones to the truck (ignoring for the moment that I was recently off the racetrack and had biceps that were nearly as big as theirs). This was all rather sweet, and since they were earnestly being respectful and polite, I allowed this with nary a smirk, and thanked them graciously.

The three of us trundled out to the truck, a tiny Chevy Luv owned by one of the students. (At the time, I relied on public transportation to save money). The two boys carried the slide projector and the boxes of slides, and one of the two animal mounts (a beaver and a mallard duck). I carried the other.

We crammed ourselves into the miniature cab of the truck, slides and projector nestled between the feet of one of the guys, animal mounts on our laps. I sat in the middle (this offered in a courtly way, and I'm sure a more comfortable socio-psychological arrangement for the guys than being crammed in on top of one another, with me on the end.) The only way we could all fit - and still leave the driver enough space to shift gears without getting MUCH better acquainted with me - was if I sat with my left leg crossed above my right and my left foot braced against the lower panel of his dash, more or less in the glove box. This wasn't as uncomfortable as it sounds; I was able to brace myself securely, and it allowed a scant clearance between the gear shift and the bottom of my thigh to preserve the modesty of the driver. In addition I was young and flexible, and very fit, so I was perfectly content with the arrangement. Certainly I was more comfortable about it than the two guys were, both of whom kept their eyes studiously on the road and maintained a steady patter of small talk to distract themselves from the idea that they were smashed sardine-style up against (gasp!) a Grad Student.

In due course we arrived at our destination, extricated ourselves from the confines of the truck, and put on a successful and interesting wildlife program for the kids. The beaver and duck mounts, which we passed around, were a big hit, as were the many extremely good slides, and we left there with both sides well-satisfied.

Back to the clown truck to fold ourselves back in. I scrunched myself into the middle again, the guys sandwiching themselves in beside me. The passenger guy had a little trouble shuffling his feet amongst the slides and projector whilst still balancing his stuffed duck, so I uncrossed my legs for a minute to give him more room to get situated. Then, balancing my own mount, I had to re-cross them, which was mildly challenging in the tight space. Ever helpful, and noticing my contortions, the kid to my right asked me, "Do you want me to hold your beaver?"

I couldn't help it. I gave him A Look, brow cocked and sidelong. He went red to the roots of his hair. I started laughing. The driver started laughing. We all started laughing. The kid was still beet-red, but at least he no longer looked like he wished he would spontaneously combust and disintegrate into a tiny smoking pile of ash.

"No, thank you," I said demurely. "I believe I can manage it myself."

After that, I admit, I was smirking. Just a little. Innocently. Both guys were noticeably flushed, but I (fresh from the track, and used to far worse on an hourly basis) was serene. Deeply amused, but serene.

We got back to the U and the guys unloaded the slides and projector, walking briskly a half step ahead of me whilst I carried my beaver sedately back into the building. I could pretty much feel the heat waves rolling off their heads as I walked along in their wake. They neatly stashed everything - sedulously avoiding my gaze - and the passenger kid took off out of there like a scalded dog. The other kid was pointed toward the door when Professor D came out and asked us how it went.

"Oh, fine," I said. "The slides were a hit, and of course the kids loved the animal mounts." I carefully avoided adding, "Everyone loves a stuffed beaver," but I think a little glint of mischief might have shown in my eye, because suddenly the other undergrad melted away like frost on a spring morning.

Didja ever have one of those days....?


Holly said...

snerk! That will be something he remembers for a long time!

Pat said...

Reminds me of the time I was doing work study with a young freshman. I was an older student returning to college and newly divorced. It was towards the end of the Fall semester and to make small talk, I asked him, "Do you think you will take an intercourse session?"
The correct phraseology was intersession course. He looked at me in shock, I realized what I had just said and then wanted to melt inot the floor. I still get red thinking about it. HA!

Julia said...

This made me laugh a lot =D

And on a side note... I love your blog. Alaska sounds so beautiful, and I could read stories about animals forever... Have you read any James Herriot? I don't know if he's at all known in America...

MaskedMan said...

Oh, Herriot is known over here. His work is a bit of a niche market, but yeah, he's definately a Name.

AKDD, I love it - you weren't even actively evil, and yet those poor 'kids' are, no doubt, traumatized to this very day. Heck, you didn't do anything - they did it all to themselves! I'm only glad I never 'stepped on it' that hard, myself.

AKDD said...

Man! I wish I'D gone to a college that offered intercourse sessions! :D

Glad you all weren't shocked by the semi-off-color tone... accidental as it was. Those poor boys. It was circa 1988. They might be over it by next week.

Julia, thank you! Yes, I read all the Herriot books - discovered them when I was in college. That noe where he's up with the dour Scottish vet wearing the rubber suit - laughed until I could not breathe. I'm quite flattered that you thought of me in the same mental sentance as Herriot, as it were.

Glad you enjoy the blog... Alaska IS a beautiful place, althuogh it's not for everyone. We're in the season of dark and cold now, which is fine by me, but not everyone likes that. OTOH, winter has myriad beauties in the winter, as well as every other time. And the summers have so much light that it's intoxicating.

MM, thanks for saying I wasn't evil. I TRIED not to be.... but you know how my mind works. It's a struggle sometimes.

MaskedMan said...

Yeah, you can be entirely evil and sly at times, there's no doubt of that... But this once, at least, if at no other time, you courageously resisted - Not that it saved them!

AKDD said...

HEY!!! Evil in a GOOD way. Sly in a GOOD way.



Cavewoman said...

Oh dear. That's hysterical. I knew it was going to come down to the stuffed beaver. You really do write so well. Sometimes people write about daily happenings and it's just so much boring. You always have the right turn of phrase to keep it as funny in the telling as it was in the experiencing.

AKDD said...

Cavewoman, thank you for that comment! That's exactly what I'm aiming for, so I REALLY appreciate that observation. There's an art to storytelling, IMO... it's one thing to convey information, another thing to entertain. I'm trying to do both. I love a good story, and I know some people who do it well. I just LOVE when they start a tale. I'm gratified to think that I'm not doing too badly in that regard.