Mr ChemEng 08: The Tale of Chemical Engineering (Part 3 of 1)

It is rare for a crossover type post on this blog but when Jonathan mentioned early last month that he had worked on a post about his experiences towards the end of his university career it interested me greatly. Initially because it promised to be highly aggressive, vitriolic, and also well written, but whilst it has still a stinging meaning for those close enough to understand the sleight word play and who is being pin pointed, it was much less an attack but rather a measured critique of some people and their blinkered status to all that is around them.

I sometimes wonder about this. At school I was not in the cool gang, and those who were young and went to school understand what that means. I was on periphery during my early years, skimming the tops of the ned culture because of my lack of friends in my practical classes. I was, by definition, uncool, and a bit of a geek (you wouldn't have guessed that the person writing an internet blog would be a geek now would you?) and I didn't mind it that way. It meant that I could get on with my other uncool friends and we had a particularly better time of it, being in the classes higher than the rest and hanging out in the other side of the school grounds.

In my final year of high school it was less pronounced as we all converged on the same rubbish room for banter and pool, sometimes the tables would be swarmed by both cliques, and other times there was an invisible line drawn. Only when doing PE were there no boundaries other than Good at Football and Shit at Football. A teacher once told me that things were going to be different at University.

No. When school is divided up there were only three groups of boys. There were the "neds" who had stayed on at school, getting highers and intermediates just to make it into college, and then there was my group, those who were treading water after getting unconditionals. There was a third group of in-betweeners who had no anchorage; they had the mental capability but did fuck all with it.

At university there was a total of seven different cliques who stayed separate throughout the years but mingled twice a year at various booze filled drunken misnomers where everyone pretended to be friends with each other, whilst the next day darting eyes and nursing sore heads miles away from the heady banter of the twilight before.

There was my group. We were smart, self contained, and kept ourselves to ourselves, eating lunch, going out, playing FIFA and going to the gym on our own. We kept our heads above the water academically and did pretty well out of it.

Then there was the Comedy Group. One of those in this group won Mr ChemEng according to Jonathan – they were the latecomers, the ones who purported to being dumb, but aced many tests and passed every exam (save for a few).

There was also the Sporty Ones, which overlapped in later years with the comedy ones. These guys are the true bastions of ChemEng, mastering the impressive balance between go getting sports achievements, brown nosing with lecturers and passing every exam well.

The "too cool for Uni" group always sat at the back and had a good grasp of inter-lecturer banter. They all professed to thinking each other was a "cunt" but always hung around each other. They too passed the exams, though slightly less well than the previous groups.

The further three had more in common than most, and probably blur into one group. The Geeks (not us amazingly) managed to pass every exam and do every assignment without fail. The Outsiders never really fitted into any group, coming close to my own group (and for a while were probably part of it). The Others are those who dropped out or failed to turn up – the heady stereotypical student types.

This segregation didn't happen to the year above ours in the same way and I can't understand why. It might be personality clashes – I didn't really like anyone from outside my group more than just an acquaintance.

It might be a waste of blog to say all of this as it is centred quite healthily on my own experiences, but I can say for certain that it is not exclusive to university as there are cliques even in the work place. Impressively, I have managed to breach most, getting on email lists for jokes and in on the loop for gossip, which makes a refreshing change to most of my past experiences. The worrisome part is that I might become what I derided in the first couple of paragraphs, those who are too deluded to notice that the reality they are seeing is not the true picture.

To finish this meandering post I shall recount a tale of my past, which neatly echoes Jonathan's post. I bought a year book for my years at high school, and I featured heavily in the photos and wrote a badly written article for it. My profile was an okay length and my photo count was quite high. It is the little things that you notice, like how those who won the awards for best looking were involved in the development of the year book, those who won the funniest we those who were the least funny, and those who crafted the book of such a high quality only featured in good photos and had glowing profiles written about their "impersonation skills" which were so good no one even realised they were doing them.

If I had been allowed to vote for Mr ChemEng it would've been probably Steven McMaster. He did academically well, hated the course, hated everyone on it, and was offered too many jobs with obscene pay rates – nothing epitomises the ethos of the degree more.