Sharon is an Asian-American creative based in Austin.


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Random Access Memories

If you are not familiar with the RLM building on the UT campus, the eighth floor is where all of the physics classes had their labs (and probably still have them).

In my middle years in college, I worked in this office for a little over two years for a successful and lax part-time job until I was let go for being consistently ten minutes late and working for someone who was under some heat. Anyway, during my long evenings between surfing the web, working on homework, and creating rainy-day playlists in this relaxed office, I exchanged boxes of equipment to students for their plastic student ID's. It was a manageable job that required extremely minimal contact and allowed limited people-watching of all kinds of students over the course of each semester.

One particular responsibility I had, that I cannot remember how I got, was the task of changing out little metal rings used to measure radioactivity, which were stored in small, clear plastic tray compartments on several floors.

The process involved:

opening a new envelope of radioactive rings, sent to the office in a manila envelope,

taking these and a ring of keys, which were stored in a case, that opened private offices,

visiting the 7th, 14th, and another floors (I do not remember) via elevator or stairs, which had large rumbling machines on them,

walking through offices, and into their back rooms where the machines were, to replace these rings in their clear boxes,

and sealing up the old rings in a plastic bag, which was placed into an addressed manila envelope, and then thrown into the outgoing mail on another floor.

The whole process took about 15 to 20 minutes. I barely remember how I learned to do this, but before long, it was a regular and timely process, yet it always had me looking over my shoulder.

Because my shifts tended to be late in the evenings, I would change these often at night. The building has minimal windows, so the only way you could tell from the inside was that all the lights on the radioactive floors were completely out, with the exception of the exit signs.

Many times when I changed these rings, the offices always felt a little deserted and eerie. I clearly recall cups of coffee that looked like they had been sitting there for years.

I can't remember if I had ever encountered anyone there (I don't believe that I had), but the repetition of never seeing anyone always made me wonder if one day, I would be startled by an unexpected someone. Or if someone was actually there every time but hiding from me or actually just unaware, or if one day, a troll of a grad student would suddenly appear from behind a large rumbling machine and cause all the radioactive rings to be thrown into the air.

Would anyone know?

Some days, I both humored and terrified myself by anticipating hands stopping the elevator doors from closing or by wondering how fast I could run down the stairs if I needed to.

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