Carmen stepped off the bus into a large courtyard that led right up to the front of the Theory and Research building. She was grasping her phone tightly in her right hand and with her left, she held her backpack strap. The email that was directing her to this building, the T&R building, was open behind her phone’s lock screen and besides providing information about what room she needed to go to, it explicitly told her to bring a bag, notebook, and writing utensils. Walking through the courtyard took longer than expected because it was packed with people. The T&R building was tall with a large base, and it held about 50% of the city’s “working” population. Within a few minutes, Carmen was in the building looking for a staircase to the first floor after being pressured to not use an elevator unless she was going to a higher floor. According to her phone, she needed to be in room 110 at 9 am.
She was glad to have left her home 30 minutes early because she didn’t expect to lose so much time to the crowds. By the time she had her hand on the door handle of room 110 she only had five minutes before she was late. The spacing between the doors she passed told her that she was gathering in a laboratory and that is precisely what she found when she opened the door to the room. There were people scattered amongst the lab tables and only a few seats left open for her to choose from. Just before 9 came around every single seat had been filled.
Two older people strode into the room right at 9 am. Everyone turned their seats to face them. They introduced themselves as the theorist and researcher teacher pair, who would be helping this particular class of researchers find their theorist partners among the one-year older class of theorists. Some murmuring could be heard around the room about who the theorists could be and what they might end up researching for them. Most people were excited, some were worried. This point was the most defining for the research group because they would undergo required tests that would help them get a good theorist as a partner. The teachers explained that their one-week test that would also be anonymously participated by the theorists was starting right now.
“Right now you must don a lab coat. There are just enough lab coats, one for each of you. You may choose your lab coats but be sure to both put it back on the hook you pick it up from and don’t leave anything in them, there is also a number in the collar if you forget which hook it came from,” the researcher said.
Carmen was one of the last to pick a lab coat. She noticed that a few smaller people, mostly girls, were grabbing medium-sized lab coats when they could be wearing a small. And when she had enough space to grab a lab coat from a hook, she noticed two things. The first was that the lab coat she ended up with was large. This was fine because she was usually cold indoors and wore her hoodie which was thick and didn’t fit comfortably in the medium lab coat arms. The second thing she noticed was that the lab coat belonged to someone. She could tell that it had a particular pen ink mark in the chest pocket, and it smelled. It didn’t smell bad, it just smelled like a guy, if she thought about the scent, it was a mix of deodorant and something else indescribable. Carmen always joked in her head about being able to smell the distinction in people’s scent so well that if she was blindfolded, she could name people just by their smell.