Monday, June 25, 2012

The outside life of a Student Engineer

January 11, 1996, I started my job as a student engineer.  Backing up a bit, my mother took the day off work to drive me to St. Louis, through driving snow and occasional blizzard conditions.  I had a furnished two-bedroom apartment, and a roommate.

My roommate had arrived to discover that "furnished" was minimal.  We had no shower curtains, no dish cloths or dish towels, no soaps or even toilet paper.  So about the time that I arrived, she was making a run to Target to pick up those essentials.

At that time, all out-of-town interns and co-ops were boarded in the same apartment complex.  During the fall and spring, the numbers were low enough to usually have two students per apartment: private bedrooms, common dining / living areas.  During the summer, it was three students per apartment, with one bedroom shared.

My roommate was from Florida, attending Tuskegee University in Alabama.  There were at least two other Purdue students, another boy from Tuskegee, and his roommate was from Iowa State.

As I mentioned, I didn't have a car.  Living together made it easier to find a ride to and from work each day, which I did.

From the pressure-cooker that was my home family life, to the pressure-cooker that was Purdue's Schools of Engineering, I had spent the previous 6+ years under stress.  The thing about being away at work, in a town that I sort of knew (from our Scott AFB days) but didn't really KNOW or have ties to, was that suddenly I had my evenings and weekends free.  All I had to do was put in an 8 hour day at work, get groceries, prepare my meals, and pay my bills.  Easy, right?

There are pluses and minuses to relationships.  The plus was, Brian has always been supportive, there when I needed him.  The minus was, we were almost always doing things together.  On campus, there was always something to do.

Suddenly, I couldn't just "go do something with Brian."  I had a lot of free time on my hands.  One of the first things I did (among the first things I've done in every new town) was get a library card.  Even on short-term visits, like my summers with aunts & uncles, as long as I had an address I was able to get a card.  One thing I've learned, from moving around, is that every library has a slightly different selection of books.

My junior year of high school, the selection of SF / Fantasy novels was fairly slim pickings.  I ended up reading a lot more of Robert Fulghum, and I went on an Arthurial Romance kick (Mists of Avalon, tried to work the Mary Stewart trilogy, etc.)

So, each week I would walk to the local branch of the St. Louis library, and check out a stack of books to review and take notes on in the evenings.

I was still Catholic at the time, so I soon got involved with the music ministry at the local parish, walking to and from rehearsals during the week, and to Mass on Sundays.  The library was on the way, so I would often stop at the library before or after rehearsal.
(If I accidentally left the impression that, by being cut from the marching block, I didn't play, that wasn't true.  At the time I attended Purdue, the Volleyball Band was always ad hoc, made up of the students who weren't too tired from the day's activities and wanted to keep playing.  We often joined that.  I also made it into the Gold and Black Sound, the pep band for Purdue's Womens Basketball team.  For a time, probably starting Fall 1995, Brian & I played our clarinets with one of the music groups at St. Tom's.  In order to do that, the Music Director taught us to transpose the key-of-C music by sight, so we didn't have to re-write all the music for our key-of-B-flat clarinets.  With a little practice, I could figure that skill out again.)  

By the time I joined the music ministry, Lent had begun, and they had very limited musical accompaniment for the season.  So I spent about 6-7 weeks singing with the choir before I started playing.  It was all right, gave me a few community connections, and an invitation to Easter dinner with one of the families.