Friday, June 15, 2007

The Shark Tank at Cream

You've undoubtedly heard me mention Cream before, my neighborhood study locale of choice. I enjoy it because of its hip/comfortable/nerdy atmosphere. The folks in here are mostly in my age-range - probably grads or self-employed writers/artists. This time of year it is amazing how identities become revealed.

Being curious, and yet shy, I usually take the spy approach to try and figure out what people are working on - rather than straight out asking them. I sneak peaks at spreadsheets, read book titles upside down, and focus in on private conversations. Mostly, I am hunting for like-individuals -- comrades in the grad student pool of sharks. You know, for life-saving measures.

This week - in the final weeks of Spring quarter - all of a sudden everyone is wearing their identity in full color. Walking into Cream yesterday - a pile of blue books - UCSD blue books, dominate the table in the back corner. The unlucky owner of these exams - a short shaggy haired, spectacled, brown-t-shirt wearing individual, headphones on - has his nose in an exam. Immediately I felt a sense of comradery - I wanted to go up to him, hug him and say, "I know how you feel, I know what you are going through... good luck." But he was so absorbed in his grading (for all you undergrads out there you should know how focused we are when we grade) I did not feel comfortably upsetting his focus. I waited, waited for the right moment. I took a table next to him. Pulled out my stack of blue books hoping that this would cause him to raise an eye from his table, and began grading away. No dice.

Finally, he gets up to order a drink. On his way back to the table I see my chance to reach out. "So what course are you grading for?" I say.

"HUM 5."
Abrupt, succinct - he is ready to return. But I persist, "Oh, what's that?"
"Writing course," he says.
"Are you the TA?"
"Yeah."
"Oh," I say. "I'm grading Art History at UCI."
"Cool."
silence burns.
"Good luck," I say.
Eyes down, headphones on, he's swimming away.

Sharks, I'm telling you, sharks. You never know who you can tag up with or who is just going to eat you alive for breakfast.

With its large floor to ceiling windows which wrap around the full front side of the place - Cream looks like a fish tank. Though there are only sharks inside, each with their laptop plugged in, wearing the "I'm focusing" stare. No fooling around, no joking. I'm telling you even having the same stack of blue books as a marking won't protect you.

Today, there is one sitting at 11 o'clock. Headphones on stack of blue books - should I eat him alive? Or should I make another attempt at comradery? I'll report back ...

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