Why I Should not be a T.A.

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By Cassondra Brayfield

I had the honor and privilege to obtain a T.A. job for the class Engineering Processes. They had been looking for someone to take the job and the only requirement is that you have taken the class before. Since my mom had been on my case about making some money I said, “What the heck, I made it through that class once (kind of). I should take the job.”

Then I remembered that I had barely passed that class even though it was a pass/fail course. I was immediately reminded of how my cannon project ended up with the completely wrong measurements and how my partner and I had broken virtually every lathe we touched. Nevertheless I decided to inquire within about the position. They were so desperate for a T.A. for this class that I was hired on the spot without question. This was frightening to me and I feared for all the students in the class who would be taking my advice.

Before I could have second thoughts, boom, I had to give a demo of using the lathe. I was told to demonstrate basic lathe operations such a coning, turning down, center drilling, facing off, knurling, and parting. These words flew out of my boss’s mouth and slapped me in the face as I fumbled to remember what all these terms mean. I ran through the lab manual quickly and did a practice run in my head while Jon (the professor of that class) was briefing the students on all the machines in the shop. I set up my lathe and by the time the students came to me for the demo, I thought I had it all figured out. “I got this.” I whispered to myself.

It started out alright. I was a little shaky as I thought of where to start, but so far so good. I faced off the piece, and it looked like I basically knew what I was doing. Then it was time to set up for the drilling. I secured the drill bit and was about to start the lathe spinning when I tried to loosen the head stock, but the lever was stuck. I pushed and pushed, thinking to myself, “who tightened this, Thor?” I had to push surprisingly hard, which of course made me look weak and girlish. When the lever finally budged, it flung down with all my collected force on it, and my thumb contacted the drill bit on the way down. Before I knew what had happened, I realized that I had sliced my thumb open.

Keeping my cool, I continued the demo. I thought that it was an injury the size of a paper cut, but then it really started bleeding. The freshmen’s eyes grew wide as my blood mixed with metal shavings and cutting fluid on the lathe.  As the terror in their expressions grew, I quickly ran through the options in my head. I could go get a Band-Aid from the back, but then all these students would just be standing there while I dressed the wound, and my boss would wonder what was going on and it would just be a mess. I could continue will the demo without doing anything about the cut, but there is no way that’s sanitary, and that would be even more of a mess— so I went for option three. I turned to the work sink behind me, grabbed a long train of paper towels, wrapped them around my very bleeding hand, and continued the demo. I could not imagine a worse way to start my new job, but looking back on it, I think I handled it like a pro. I probably did seem like a badass by continuing to work even though blood was gushing out of my hand.

Also, besides the minor detail that I had hurt myself like an idiot, the rest of the demo was actually correct. When I finished going over all the operations, I properly cleaned the machine and addressed my mistake, confident that none of those students would ever forget their first day of engineering processes.