An Engineer’s Journal (October 1963): Chemistry 101

engineer journal pic

October, 1963

She missed the bus. Building up a ‘psychological head-of-steam’, she envisioned her ‘grand entrance’ into Professor C’s Chemistry class. His rants were the stuff of urban legend. To make matters worse, the lecture hall was an intimidating venue, with tiered seating that funneled student attention toward the prof’s desk and blackboard down in the ‘bowl’.

Racing from the bus stop, past blocks of abandoned storefronts, she imagined whispers descending, from the unending row of faded, shredded awnings that hung in tatters above her:

“Troubled waters ahead!”

Her male classmates would enjoy the distraction, but she didn’t relish being their comic relief. Huffing and puffing, she reached the massive, counterweight sliding door of the lecture hall. After pausing to breathe, she pushed the door open. Silence engulfed the lecture hall. All eyes were upon her, as she clattered up the stairs and across the back of the lecture hall, to her centrally located, assigned desk.With the vigor of a ravenous beast, pouncing on pathetic prey, his voice roared across the expanse of classroom that separated them:

“Nice of you to join us!”  He pretended to scan the seating chart to find her name and make a notation.

For a moment she thought: “Will this go on my permanent record?” (Twelve years of parochial school education had conditioned her well). She mumbled something about a bus, and opened her notebook, hoping that in so doing, she might disappear.

Of course she didn’t (disappear); but, instead, had a revelation: It wasn’t about her! He could (and did) artfully manipulate her to perpetuate his persona as a ‘hard-ass’. Today, she was merely his weapon of choice. Nothing more; nothing less.

She survived that seemingly endless semester with a firmly established (if insignificant) 2.00. This journey would be life-changing; but if she could tackle each hurdle, one at a time, and seize precious pearls of wisdom along the way, there was hope for this aspiring Chemical Engineer.

Studio 30+ :This week’s prompt: Use the following phrase in your post:


Trifecta Challenge: Write between 33 and 333 words including the third definition:

MANIPULATE (transitive verb)
3: to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one’s purpose : to doctor
See more at:

17 Comments on “An Engineer’s Journal (October 1963): Chemistry 101

  1. Ugh, I feel her pain! I remember being that one who was late. But the next to last paragraph, quite true. I liked how you wrote this, your turn of phrase and wording. Well done. It was an excellent read!


    • I guess it’s happened to many of us! As these things happen to us, it’s tough to take a step back from the immediacy of our own embarrassment. thank you for your feedback – I’m glad you enjoyed reading the piece.


  2. Oh,I can relate to this so well though I was never late to class or never had such a hard -ass professor but have heard of such things and now my daughter ,who is in her 2nd sem,tells me the same stories-somethings never change,no?Excellent writing Joanne-loved it:-),


    • Remind your daughter what I learned…that his (and others’) tactics are often more a reflection of who they are. I was an especially easy target, coming from all girls catholic high school to an all male university. I stuck out like a sore thumb and was easily embarrassed. But what doesn’t kill you dies in fact make you stronger! Thanks, Atreyee!


  3. Terrific description of the hall – funneling down into the bowl. I liked the storefronts and awnings, too.


I'd appreciate your feedback (Please, leave a comment)!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: