– Mark E. Smith

OK, I am going to write the engineer post. I have to. The fuckers marched in the gay-pride parade!

Young men and a few women in hardhats and blue face paint carry a SKULE banner

With their own dominatrix and slaves!

Engineeress leads a black-clad, welding-masked man, and a few uninteresting women, on chains wrapped around their waists

Hell freezes over! And the mech engs could tell you how many kilojoules you had to take out to get there.

Love the hardhats.

A superintimate interlude of personal history

As many intimes will be aware, I have a diploma in engineering from Dalhousie University. (Actually, anyone who bothers to read closely will know that.) I got streamed by a second-rate guidance counselor into engineering because all my marks were high. I suppose only the math and science marks counted. Nobody expected kids in New Brunswick to be able to speak, read, or write either official language anyway.

So off I went in 1983 at the age of 18. Besides, I had quite the interest in automotive safety back then. Possibly the most absurd fact of my teenage years is as follows: For a full season, I hosted an entire half-hour weekly show on Dalhousie’s radio station on that very topic. Heard only within a few university buildings, the preponderance of Halifax listeners were spared what I now recognize as the abject horror of that program. And the title? Well, I went with the obvious: Crash-Off.

To this day I am a seatbelt Nazi and do in fact tell people in passing cars to buckle (“the fuck”) up. (“No, I want to die,” a twink snapped back during Pride. Good answer!)

I was just a youngin’ – not sharp like the twinks today – and was simply terrible at everything in engineer school save for math, which, in first year, was exactly like Grade 12. And chemistry, I suppose; I was written into the final chemistry exam by name. (My first walk-on role.)

Meanwhile, the engineer I had an unhealthy crush on flunked nearly every course, but comes from an important Truro family; hence, as of last Googling, he is a professional engineer. I am not. I stuck with the nightmare that was engineer school for two long years, emerging with this junior degree, literally and fully known as a diploma in engineering. In that system, you then went to TUNS or another university to specialize in a discipline, emerging with a B.Eng. The Dipl.Eng. phase was pre-engineering, in a sense. It was thus possible to spend six years earning an engineering degree everyone else in the country – and students at UNB and Mun – could manage in four.

I was and am, moreover, unmechanical. I pay to get my bike serviced. I can’t drive a car. I engage seamstresses. Hence I wasn’t good at it, but I liked it. I am a writer who enjoys technology. Commonplace now, rare then. I bailed for McGill linguistics; I transfered to UofT and emerged with a B.A. in 1989. I have two degrees, neither of which is a master’s.

Now, of all the double surface integrals of mice and men, the saddest are “It might have been.” If I were an ordinary bloke, I would have emerged as a B.Eng. and later P.Eng. But one is of course not ordinary. I didn’t drink then and I still don’t, and I pretend I’m a tad more cultured, plus there’s the issue of homosexualism. It was only on return to Halifax a year later that I spotted two mates from my engineering class at the only gay bar – named, inevitably, Rumours.

If I like being technical and artistique, well, how much better is it to be so artistique as to have been published all over the place and so technical as to be provincially regulated? Pretty great, right? Possibly, yes. But I shall never know.

In Canada, tradition holds that an engineer, upon completing a bachelor’s, may wear an iron ring on the little finger. (They are usually stainless steel.) I can spot one of these on the ground while strapped into the aisle seat of an aircraft flying above cloud cover at 30,000 feet. I see one in a gay bar and I go nuts. (You will be spoken to.) I would be too Aspergerian to wear a ring – I’d sit there and worry it all day – but it symbolizes what I did not do.

On the other hand, they haven’t published. The invert engineers I have met are almost uniformly uninteresting and/or end up as some kind of disappointment. Curiously, the straight ones aren’t and don’t. (I know several in my field.) I have no explanation.

And in any event, a Joe Clark, P.Eng. simply would not be the same Joe Clark. I can’t honestly say I would be better – at anything. This in no way prevents me from wistfully imagining an alternate past, present, and future.

In fact, what mostly happens is I disappear from the face of the planet for a little while, rather as Principal Skinner does whenever his mind drifts back to his time spent Nam.

The news hook

Ten years ago, I was talking with my old dean of engineering to return to Dal for a speaking tour. Diversity issues and suchlike. ENGIQUEERING TOUR ’94 or whatever. He dropped the ball and it never happened.

But I read a squib in Xtra, 2004.01.22, p. 10, as follows:

Third-year mechanical-engineering student Greg Fisher will go down in queer history as the first-ever gay judge to participate in the University of Toronto Engineering Society’s annual Mr. Blue and Gold competition…. EngSoc [Oceania, shurely?!] vice-president Michael Diez D’Aus says Fisher was selected as a judge because he’s a good people person.

Well, you know, that is all we’re good for. Customer service. (“Smoking or non?”)

I totally plotzed! (And the event is totally ungooglable.)

Now this. I was chatting with my esteemed colleagues, facing quite away from the Pride® parade, and happened to glance back to see a cavalcade of marauding engineers in body paint. Took me ages to return to earth and fish the digicam out.

I need to know what the fuck is up with this.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2004.06.29 20:57. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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