The first time I felt like an alien was about three weeks into the semester.
There I was in bio lab squinting through a microscope, trying to figure out if I was seeing bacteria or lens scratches. The next group over was having trouble with their slide too, and called the professor to help. He fiddled with their microscope a bit and made a dramatic gesture: “There you go! That’s Patrick.”
“That’s Patrick?” the students asked, looking through the oculars.
“That’s Patrick,” he repeated.
Who is Patrick? I wondered. And how is he on a slide? I waited for an explanation. But nobody else seemed to need one.
“That doesn’t look like Patrick at all!” a student protested.
“It’s Patrick when he was a baby,” the professor explained.
“What slide are they looking at?” I asked my partner, hoping to dispel some of the mystery. I was pretty sure nobody had named the malariae I was looking at “Patrick.”
“Star fish,” my partner replied.
“Sea star,” the professor corrected. “When Patrick was a baby, he looked like that, but we couldn’t see him because he was microscopic. Patrick as we know him is grown up.”
Everyone was nodding and smiling. I couldn’t stand it any more.
“Who is Patrick?” I asked.
Heads swiveled. Mouths gaped.
“Patrick – you know, Patrick – the sea star from Spongebob Squarepants.”
Ooooh. Wouldn’t have guessed in a million years.
“Oh, yeah…” I said lamely. Everyone went back to work, but I felt like I’d let my antennaes show.