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Science Freshman Magazine
National University of Singapore
Science Freshman Magazine, Jun 89
The People That You Meet

N. Sivasothi

I wonder how many of you freshies are coming to Science with the idea that this place is populated with bespectacled formula-chanting individuals. Believe you me, this misinformed perception will soon fade away into the horizon just as effectively as our ideas of combating the fee-hike did.

The Three Stooges
There were these three girls, of three different races, who stuck together for three years whom I promptly titled 'The Three Stooges'. Understandably, they were not amused. Not being British royalty however, there was little they could do about the name which gained popularity. Their temperaments were distinct and this was illustrated whenever I had the fortune of catching them in the act of some mischief, like copying each other's programmes. The quiet (relatively) one would look downcast, lowering her eyelids and staring at the floor to exaggerate the emotion, the timid one would make as if to cry and the grim member of the trio would grit her teeth (as she was often apt to do so) and stare into some point in space and time in total oblivion of their crime.

A classmate of theirs of generous proportions (he even surpassed me), was holding a respectable position in office and had to evict some semblance of civilised behaviour that would be acceptable with the rest of the community. Usually, he got by. Once, however, during the exam period when stress ran high, this monstrosity appeared as I sat 'quietly' on the bean-bag at the fifth level of the Science Library. He started insulting me and when I advanced toward him, scampered away. I caught up with him at the head of the stairs and attempted to lift him up. (I have since read the documented study which stated that he has not left the ground/supporting surface since childhood; he can't even ascend when he jumps.) Anyway, my futile attempts at encircling his waist caused us to crash into the glass partition that separated the Books section from us. What we didn't realise as we fell down the stairs was that the sound of that impact had been amplified into the Books section to the amazement of the students studying in there. We were quite embarrassed when we realised the sight we must've made, grappling away but a friend of ours reassured us saying they probably thought we were fighting over a RBR book!

Ghost of Serials
Some of the queerest people can be found in the library during exam time. One chap whom we referred to as the "Ghost of Serials" due to his omnipresence there always sat in the same place. Its habits included mumbling to himself frequent rattling of the blinds and worse of all, taking off his shoes and socks. The smell grew so bad that once, one of the girls distributed her perfume to combat the incredible odour that emanated from his shoes in a manner that would make the evil spirits who came out of Pandora's box turn green with envy. Unlike that fable however, we never did have much hope. While the rest of us speculated whether he was writing a thesis on 'Orthodox Origins of Chemical Warfare', three of us got together and discussed a solution. We told one of the girls to come early.(i.e. 7.50am) and grab his favourite seat - that ought to teach him, we reasoned. The next day, the Ghost was nowhere to be seen. He had come, he saw and he left. We figured he was mumbling to himself somewhere in Science in total disorientation. Victory at last? The next morning, we arrived only to find him sitting contentedly in THAT seat. We were puzzled until we talked to our dazed pal who claimed she had entered the library first but that the 'Ghost' had sprinted past her like a tornado to claim his prize - THAT seat!

Cattle in the Library
I must add however, that it isn't only the 'Ghost' who scrambles for seats. I happened to reach campus at 7.45am one day (this does not happen often) and found to my amazement, a fairly large group of students waiting for the library to open at 8am. They were standing quietly, peering fixedly at the glass door. The first row of 'em were so close that I thought I saw the mists of their breaths form circles on the glass. When the librarian came, they all grew restless and started pawing the ground and snorting as the clank of the metal against metal signalled the opening of the floodgates. The 'herd' stampeded in and left me behind, jaw agape, to choke in the dust as the rumble of their hooves receded into the distance!

Fireman & Co.
These are but a few of the interesting characters to be found on the campus grounds ( fortunately!), there are many, many more. Some, with an affinity for misadventure like the one (nicknamed "Fireman") who in kicking a ball of scrap paper, hit an alarm and brought the police and the fire brigade down here in minutes. Needless to say, he didn't wait to entertain them. Or take for instance, the fresh young graduate who rang me up the other day in pursuit of a mutual friend's telephone number - I recited her own phone number to her three times but she merely dutifully copied it down without a murmur of protest. I started ranting and raving about her 15 years of education not doing her any good but she replied (when she managed to get a word in, that is), "What to do? Science student, what!".

The Sesame Street song talks about the people that you meet when you're walking down the street and they highlight a much saner bunch of people. In this case, the street in question sounds more like Queer Street rather than innocent old neighbourhood but don't worry - you'll become one of us in due time. While you get acclimatised though, remember that they are amongst you, so be prepared. You have been WARNED!
© N Sivasothi, 2001