College is wasted on college kids. While I was away at school, I had no idea how great I had it. For four years I lived in a tiny bubble where weekends started on Thursdays and the idea of getting up before ten was literally laughed at. Nobody was over the age of twenty-two and the swipe of a card brought unlimited food. It was awesome.
The ironic thing is I remember thinking that I was working really hard during college. In my head, I was always in class or a science lab. At home, I was constantly studying physics or writing a Spanish essay.
Somehow, my mind seemed to filter out the two hour dinners I had with my friends every single night and the afternoons we spent sliding down snow-covered stairs in laundry baskets (don’t worry, we wore helmets). Now that I think about it, I didn’t even go to class half the time.
Some days I have to ask myself---Did I do any work in college???
Lucky for me I got to go back to college every day while writing my new novel, Waitlisted. My main character, Kacey Barlow, is a cocky college senior who is having a little bit too much fun as an undergrad. She’s been kicked out of the grad school her family has been attending for generations. She’s mortified to tell her parents and can’t stand the thought of her friends learning her little secret. She’s forced to jump through every hoop the admissions process has to offer. As if applying once wasn’t bad enough…
Here is a scene in which Kacey attempts to master organic chemistry lab. I wish I could say it’s purely fictional but I have to admit, I wasn’t so honest in my lab reports either.
I wash and dry my pathetic, minuscule product. Just as I thought, it turns out to be a fine white powder. Luckily, I’m able to scrape just enough into a tiny tube to take a melting point. I place my little tube in the heating machine and wait for the moment my crystals become a liquid.
The book says these crystals should melt at around thirty degrees Celsius if made right. Well, I made mine pretty much right. It should melt at thirty degrees.
I wait as the temperature continues to rise. Thirty-five…forty…forty-three degrees. What the heck? Are my crystals immune to heat? Why aren’t they melting?
Forty-five…forty-eight…fifty-two. This is ridiculous. My product couldn’t be that messed up! The machine must be wrong.
I yank out my tube and place it in the neighboring machine.
Once again, I stare in amazement as the temperature rises and my product stays a solid. What did I make???
Finally the product melts at an impressive sixty-two degrees. That’s not so off. Is it?
“How’s it going, Kacey?” I hear a deep voice say from behind me.
I turn around and my heart jumps. Oh no! It’s Mean Teaching Assistant #1. And he’s got the clip board! He’ll never check off that I got my product. He’s going to make me start over again and I’ll be stuck here all afternoon.
“Great!” I say.
“Did you get your product?” he says.
He stares at me with serious eyes. It’s like this guy has nothing better to do than harass little undergrads.
“Yup! Perfect white crystals,” I say.
“Did you get your melting point?” he says.
“Yup! Thirty-seven degrees!”
I couldn’t say thirty degrees. That would make it way too obvious that I’m lying. And I, of course, couldn’t say sixty-two degrees. That would make it way too obvious that I’m a moron.
He seems disappointed. “Thirty-seven? Why do you think your melting point is so off?”
Off? He thinks thirty-seven degrees is off? Try sixty-two!
“There are lots of reasons it could be off!” I say.
“Maybe the flask wasn’t clean from the last experiment?”
“It was your flask. You didn’t clean it?” he says.
“No, you didn’t?”
“No, I did!”
Gosh, this guy confuses me.
“Then your flask was clean,” he says.
If he says so!
“Well, there are other reasons for an impure product.” I say. “Maybe I measured wrong or the thermometer was off.”
He rolls his eyes. “Those are possibilities.” He doesn’t seem to think those are really possibilities.
“Or maybe…the solutions we used weren’t pure to begin with,” I say.
I seem to have struck a nerve. A little wrinkle forms between his eyes.
“I made those myself. The solutions were fine.”
“Are you sure? Were the flasks you used clean?” I ask. I probably shouldn’t have said that but it was so tempting.
“Of course. I know what I’m doing,” he says.
“I’m sure you do,” I say.
“There’s nothing wrong with the solutions.”
“Well.” I pause. “Then there should be nothing wrong with my product.”
He glares at me for a moment, and I stare back. Finally, he looks down. He takes out a pen from his pocket and makes a check mark next to Barlow, Kacey on the attendance sheet.
“Just try harder next time. People die from impure products.” He turns around and stomps off.
Did he really check me off? That’s amazing! I’m done!
He probably thinks I’m a little crazy now but that’s OK. It works to my advantage! I’m out of here!
Thanks so much for having me as your guest today! You can find more information about Waitlisted at the following links!
You can follow me at http://twitter.com/#!/laurelgans
Thanks for the great post and excerpt, Laurel! Did you do any work in college? I did, and yet I probably should have done a lot more. Laurel's so right - college is wasted on college kids.