The people and random events that shape our lives (Part 4)

I took years 3 and 4 of my Electrical Engineering Degree at U of A in Edmonton. I stayed in residence but occasionally went out to visit Uncle Fred and Aunt Dee and their children (Bob, Doug and Cherise).

I mostly went back and forth to Ottawa by train except once when another student asked me to drive his car – along with someone else – who was supposed to help drive. I couldn’t resist the free transport so headed off for a non-stop drive from Edmonton to Ottawa. My passenger was always falling asleep so in the end I decided I didn’t want him to drive anyway so drove all the way myself.

I stopped for gas in Winnipeg late at night and pulled out into the wrong lane but luckily no-one noticed. Then about 2 am in the morning, somewhere in Northern Ontario I hit a fox. I backed up with the idea of getting out and checking to see if the fox was still alive but accidentally backed up too far and ran over the fox a second time. By that time there was no point in checking to see if the fox was still alive so I ran over it a third time and continued on my way. We arrived at my place early in the morning and just went in and went to sleep for the next 12 hours.

Third year was another disappointment. Specializing in Electrical Engineering was not really specializing at all. Electrical engineering is a broad field and U of A’s version mostly consisted of Maxwell’s equations, motors, generators and the like. Fourth year promised more of the same but then someone in the faculty approached 4 others and myself to take a completely different set of courses. Most of the research in the department was focused on laser and plasma physics with the long-term goal of a fusion-based nuclear reactor. The five of us switched to all math and physics courses. We ended up competing (not so well) against 4th year honours math and physics students. It was very interesting and I did my best to stay awake in most of the lectures.

One of the five didn’t though. He insisted on sitting in the first row so he could hear better but would then fall asleep and start snoring. He was living in and managing a fraternity which was maybe not the best place to get a good nights sleep. He was also my lab partner and had a previous degree in philosophy. He would spend most of our lab time philosophizing about something irrelevant to the results so I got into the habit of just ignoring him all the time, doing the lab by myself and handing him the results. Then he disappeared.

Apparently in one of his philosophical meanderings (his description), he started throwing heavy objects around, was sedated and put into an institution for about 6 weeks. When he showed up again he wanted to borrow my lab results. I unfortunately made the mistake of including results from a lab that I hadn’t yet handed in. The day before the lab results were due, I called him up to ask him about it and he said something like: “Oh, I think I may have thrown that in the garbage”. I hung up the phone and ran over to the fraternity. He showed up at the door in a bath robe and started talking about some imaginary meeting he had just had with our applied mechanics professor.

“What about my lab report. I said”.

“Oh, let me go see”, he said. He disappeared and then showed up a few minutes later with a crinkled front page of a lab report. “I think this is all I have”, he said.

I ran home and spent the night faking the lab results so I could hand them in the next day.

He disappeared again and then magically showed up at one of our classes a few weeks later with all of my lab results – including the one I had faked.

For some reason, he wanted to go over to my residence and when we got into my room started strangling me with an odd look on his face. Maybe it was a joke but he was pretty strong and I was having a hard time seeing the humour. Eventually he let go and left. He didn’t return for the rest of the year but I got a letter from him at the end of the year asking for my lab results. The letter was from a hospital that specialized in mental illness. I sent him the results.

A couple of years later, I bumped into him at UBC. He was taking a master’s degree. He had got married and seemed fine. We weren’t taking any of the same courses though, so no chance of him wanting to borrow any of my lab results.

%d bloggers like this: