Friday, July 07, 2006

Passing the Time

Usually, during studio days, you spend a lot of time waiting. If you aren’t in group discussion, then you are usually sitting at your desk, checking off the minutes until your studio professor gets around to you. Sometimes you work through the waiting, trying to get those last ideas out before your meeting. Other times, you decide it’s just better to let the professor see what you have, before you start on something that they’ll just tell you not to do.

It was third year, and my teammates and I were waiting for our desk crit, drained from a weekend of non-stop work. At the time, we were working through the programming of our design project, and had drafted, and redrafted, several proposals to show. Yes, you read that correctly. Drafted. Makes me sound old, doesn’t it? But that was the way the professors wanted it done. No AutoCAD for us, with the ease of duplicating, deleting, copying and pasting. Just hours upon hours of pencil to paper, as we worked out a conference center set within the woods of a local nature park.

So, rather than do any more, we decided to wait for some feedback, out minds somewhat dulled from our intimate time with our drafting boards. We were third, and an hour into studio time, our professor was still on the first team. Nap time was calling.

Now, caffeine does nothing for me. So despite the 20 oz. of mountain dew I had just had for lunch, I was dragging. I had taken refuge on a wide windowsill, sizing it up for a possible place to curl up. A studio mate, in solidarity, joined me, and we worked in vain to keep each other entertained, and ultimately, awake. We weren’t doing so hot.

Across the room, another studio was also in session. Our studio space was wall-less, so we had a clear view from our end of the studio space to the other side. In the off-hours, the set up made it a lot easier hold conversations and distract each other. Right now, it made for some great people watching.

A team was meeting with the professor of that studio; they looked deep in serious conversation, all hunkered around a desk covered with drawings. Except that, only two of the three were participating. The third teammate, obviously a bit bored, was hardly participating, pacing back and forth behind them, looking at other work, chit-chatting with some other of his studio members. And, as the minutes passed, their desk crit unceasing, this wandering member seemed to get more stir-crazy.

To distract himself, he honed in on a sharpie pen, hanging on a piece of string, which was strung to one of the ceiling lights. He tapped on it, watched as it swung back and forth in a rhythmic harmonic motion. For a few seconds, he contented himself with batting it back and forth, like a cat playing with a string toy. And then, it got better. He batted it so that it swung in a wide circle, which he began to dodge, from side to side, in a smooth duck and glide. Back and forth he went, left then right then left then right, for seemingly endless minutes, oblivious to the fact that his team was seriously redesigning the project, or that me and my friend, some 35 feet away, were watching transfixed, and quietly giggling like idiots.

While he went on, unaware or the fits of laughter he was causing, my professor was much more attentive. Mid-sentence, in a comment he was making to another team, he stopped, looked directly at me and my friend, and asked if we were alright. Unable to stop laughing, we just nodded, choking back tears. We turned red. We shook where we sat. And our professor, unable to get a clear answer from us, turned to another member of my studio and asked, “Are they drunk?”

With that one question, we lost all control. Unbeknownst to him, my friend and I were the last two “dry” students in the class. Being drunk would be the most unlikely of scenarios, and him assuming we were made the whole situation that more uproarious. He just stared at us for another minute or two, and as if nothing happened, turned back to the team he was speaking with, and continued on, right from where he left off.

The commotion we caused had everyone in the studio area looking at us. Just for a second. Then things went on, the distraction forgotten as quickly as it was noticed. It was back to work, back to waiting.


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