Sunday, October 23, 2005

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

This post continues from where the last one left off. Once again about nights-out. So I came to Davis to do my masters. I stayed with a couple of seniors - let me call them A and B. Now A and B were really nice girls and helped me get settled down much faster than I otherwise would have. A and B were also good friends with a bunch of desi guys living upstairs. Being the most recent entrant to the gang, I was the youngest of the lot and A and B used to baby me at times. A, B, me and the guys upstairs used to cook and eat together to minimize individual cooking turns.

Computer architecture was one of the required courses for that quarter. As a part of the course, we were required to submit a project at the end of quarter - a software implementation of an architectural feature plus a presentation of the same. Since one of the guys upstairs, R, had also taken the same course, R and I decided to team up together to do the project. As per the normal life-cycle of any project it started off as per schedule. But as days went by, we started lagging behind mainly due to me having to spend time on other projects, this being my first quarter in school and all. I dodged R's killer looks as much as possible at school though it was impossible to avoid them during dinner-time. Finally, it started looking like our project and consequently our grades were going to die a slow death. And we HAD to buck up.

So one night, after dinner, R and me set off to the lab to do some serious work. So far, in Davis, the latest my hard work had extended to was till 3.00a in the morning and we expected it to be the same that night too. The only other person in the lab that night was my batch-mate, V, who also was struggling to make progress with his architecture project. All of us were pretty involved with our projects and did not notice the passage of time. Around 5.00a, we were still in the lab and V went out to get a snack. Suddenly I heard knocking on the lab door (we need electronic access to open the door). Thinking it was V knocking, I went to open the door. I was taken aback to see a male and a female cop standing outside! I assumed that they were just doing some security round or something and waited for them to say something.

And their question was "Is Archana here?". For a moment my heart leapt into my mouth and threatened to jump out. Questions raced through my head "How did they know my name? What did I do? Is INS deporting me? But why?" and I nodded "yes" dumbly. Then the female cop said, "You should call your room-mates and tell them that you are okay. They are very concerned about your not coming home." A and B had called the cops because I had not come home by my general 3.00a deadline!! The cops then left.

I then had the embarassing task of calling up home and apologizing to A and B for not informing them about my night-out. It turned out that B had gotten up for a drink of water around 4.30a and was surprised to find my bed empty. Since I had never been away for so long before, she woke up A to ask if I had told her anything. On getting a negative, A and B called up the guys upstairs to ask if R was back home yet since I had gone with R to the lab the previous night. Those guys, being guys, sleepily told them that they did not give a damn as to where R was and would A and B please let them go back to sleep. Then A and B, being girls, began to think up various scenarios of where I could be - all of which involved picturing me lying cold and lost on the road. Finally, unable to get back to sleep, they had called the campus police to look for me and gave them a list of possible places where I could be. And thats how the cops found me! And thats how my first close encounter with an arm of the law happened.

I remember that I was initially annoyed that A and B thought that I couldnt take care of myself in spite of being a solid 21 years of age. But then several people including R pointed out that I should be thankful to know that I have people looking out for me in spite of being away from home. And I knew they were right. I was also pretty impressed by the sense of duty of the campus police who came searching early in the morning just because some girls complained that their roommate had not come home for the night.

Once again, after this night out, we HAD to put in several more nights-out to complete the darned project. And for each of those nights, I always told A and B that I was probably not going to be home till morning!

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