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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Apathetic senior taking pre-med courses for no reason

Published: March 3, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

Second semester seniors on reduced tuition and on the verge of graduating that take general chemistry and physics with labs for absolutely no reason whatsoever are part of a very inimitable club that should probably require a retinal scan and voice recognition to attain entry into its elusive headquarters. As the only one in this exclusive elite class, I regret to inform all that the door to my room does not, as of yet, have retinal scanning hardware installed. Though recently Ive learned to see this as a plus in that now I can squish my retina up against the doorknob and it wont even open. Ever. Security is my top priority here.

As president of the Graduating Seniors Taking Premed Courses for Absolutely No Reason, I can say that the view I have of all the squirmy little freshmen premeds is rather entertaining in a mildly sadistic sort of way. This is perhaps a direct result of the fact that my performance in any of the classes matters about as much as dental hygiene does to a snailat times the snail may start worrying about its teeth because it wants to look and feel good about itself, strutting around as snails often do on that slimy goo of a leg it has. Then a gloopy neuron fires off in one of its antennas and it suddenly realizes that it a) has no teeth, and b) doesnt even have the mental capacity to grasp the concept of dental hygiene in the first place. Then somebody steps on it.

Simply put, I go through rapid cycles of spasmodically caring about my grades in these classes, to then having that wondrous epiphany that, hey, I dont even WANT to be a doctor, so I might as well just sit back, relax, pointing and laughing at all the little freshmen premeds slowly losing their hair over the upcoming test. I have timed the cycle precisely, and calculated that it takes about seven seconds for me to pray for an A, suddenly realize that I dont care, fall asleep in the middle of lab, wake up to the smell of some sort of toxic chemical I must have produced while unconscious, and make a wisecrack to my lab-supervising TA. Then somebody steps on me.

Seriously though, in lab I am able to adopt an attitude that no one else in the room is able to touch. While they are working quietly trying to produce their toxic waste that federal law prohibits improper disposal of, hoping to God they dont mess up and synthesize something that isnt deadly and poisonous enough, I am living it up, mixing together all sorts of lethal compounds. I do this while reading and laughing at the safety rules because by this point Ive breathed in enough noxious fumes to lose any sense of self. Then I say something weird to the TA and everybody looks at me worriedly, as if to say, Where is your sense of self? to which I glare back, gesticulating wildly and pointing to the toxic waste jug over in the hood that federal law prohibits improper disposal of, mouthing out the words Its in there! as if to say, Its in there!

In fact, during my last physics lab, I was experiencing an acute fit of not caring about grades to the point that, upon entrance to the lab, I said the following to Sam, my favorite TA who recently grew a mustache, Sam, do you know how much I missed physics lab?

No, he said.

Sam, I said, I missed it so much that if you took a number and divided it by the amount that I missed physics lab, the answer would be undefined. Then somebody looked at me questioningly. I looked back in a charades-like attempt to symbolize a toxic waste jug.

Toxic waste may be funny, but it is definitely not as entertaining as the lab safety rules. The very first thing the lab manual tells you is, The chemical laboratory poses many hazards, and yet it can be no more dangerous than any other classroom. Well, of course it can, provided that you dont have hydrochloric acid fights or participate in some sort of fraternity hazing prank involving toxic waste binge drinking contests.

Then again, even if you do, the lab is fully equipped with a state of the art complement of safety features including 1) an eyewash station, to be used if you perchance confuse sodium hydroxide for your contact lens solution, 2) a full-body shower, to be used if you suddenly feel the need to bathe in the middle of class, for example, if you are a senior who doesnt care about your grade and the hot water wasnt working in your apartment that day 3) a fire blanket to dry off after your shower, and 4) a fire extinguisher, though Im not quite sure what that one is for.

For those that still arent sure if theyre interested in the premed track, my advice is to think very carefully about it. Is it worth the risk? Will you be able to resist snatching the jug of toxic waste and disposing of it illegally instead of following federal regulations, which are to dump it in Yakus pond? Do you think you can stroll into lab every week and withstand the primal urge to just randomly take a shower? Are you willing to, if all else fails, use the fire blanket if youre still wet? These are issues I struggle with almost every day. The fight doesnt get any easier. That is, until you have another one of those epiphanies and stop caring about your grades. Then somebody steps on you.