Once upon a time, I was a student. In a big university. I was studying architecture. And 'Architectural Design' was the major subject of our curriculum. Flunk it and you fail the year. It was that important. We had two terms a year. Two projects a term. The subjects and the briefs of the projects were predetermined by the despots ... errr..I mean by the Doctors. We develop the concept on butter paper (also known as Bon Marche) with the help of doctors and assistant teachers, over the period of two months. And then once, finger crossed, our concepts are inline and complete, we transform those concepts into properly produced drawings on cartoon sheets (aka Canson). That usually happens over the period of a three-days stint, during which we are required to stay within the college premises during the day and do all the work. Strictly indoors. The security guard at the door (the only exit, since all other emergency exits in the vast monstrosity are locked with pad-locks and the keys are thrown in wells chocked with the debris of thirty autumns).. that security guard is saddled with the task of ensuring that no student leaves or enters the college building with a half-finished sheet. The re-production process also involved coloring the important bits of our drawings. And instead of the pencil lines, which we used on butter paper, we were required to re-draw everything with ink pens of various thickness. Rotering was the dominant brand. The coloring was invariably done in water colors. Anyone who had worked with them before would tell you that sheets laid loosely on drawing boards are liable to distortion and waviness once they get wet with water colors. To counter-effect that stretchiness we used a technique known in the construction business as post-tensioning. We'd soak the Canson sheet in water, lay it squarely on the boards, let all the water dribble down until the sheet is damp but not squirting. And then we'd use a special kind of adhesive tape with certain chemicals on one side that would interact with water and form some sort of a glue. The glue would harden once it's dry. The sheet and the tape would usually dry simultaneously, which ensures that the sheet is post-tensioned (or post-stressed) properly. Now you can work on the sheet with your brush and not worry about it getting soggy. ....all this process take place inside the college, and the only source of water is in the men's room (or the ladies). You can imagine the circus. The men's room would cease functioning as toilets, because unlike modern buildings, the communist planners of our college didn't believe it needed mechanical exhausts for the toilets. Natural ventilation is best. That would be true as long as the prevailing wind blew from the other direction. The smart planners of our college situated the toilets at the southern flank of the building, but since we're at the far end of the uni campus, and since it was all open prairie around us, the wind simply blew from every direction. So we ended up having foul smell most of the time. And therefore it was better to stop using the bathrooms during the Tabyeed (drawing re-production period), and walk over the two minutes trail to the Law School to take a shit with the lawyers of the future.......
So we'd have to hole up in the dungeons of the college for three days. Scrambling to get all the sheets properly aligned on the drawing boards so that the rolling ruler would fit nicely. The rolling ruler (the one used for measurement, not for winning elections) is another story altogether. By the way I'm not even sure students of architecture the world over are also subject to all these miseries. Anyway, the rolling ruler is your normal 1 meter long T ruler. Except it has four small steel wheels at each corner. We buy a heavy duty strings --the same one used to suture-- (it's all a big business, mind you) from the shop down stairs, cut two proper length of the string, and then we spool them both around those wheels in an X figure. And then we nail the four ends of the strings to the board... and lo and behold, you've got a ruler that can slide up and down the board in a precise parallel movement. Up and down, back and forth. Relentlessly.
Now once all that is taken care of. We set to work on the actual thing. All the above is mere foreplay, ladies and gentlemen, the hardcore is yet to come. The day before we start the work, every student would 'reserve' a drawing desk for him/her. It's important to do that because of the shortage of serviceable desks. Friends will usually cluster around each other. The alphabetical order by which we sit in the studios are no loner relevant. The 'cool' guys would get the prime locations. These places would usually be next to the windows (for proper light and ventilation) and the heating radiators. I wonder if you've ever tried to keep a firm grip on a pen with your thumb and forefinger in a sub zero atmosphere. It's simply torture. So the radiators come in handy.
Now I did tell you that friends cluster together and around each other. Another factor in the formation of desks is where the hot girls are seated. You realize that as young men, full of energy and ambitions for the future, we were not short of inspiration. In fact, I dare say we were over-motivated. So when the hot girl in the slightly low-cut sweater and tight jeans bend down to grab a pen from the floor or to take care of the painstaking details on her drawing; the male students seated behind her would reach for their Correctors in unison. Because it's impossible to draw a straight line when you're overly motivated. So your pen slips off the edge of the ruler because, naughty naughty, you're not paying attention to it. By then, ejaculations of white Corrector ink and groans of frustration will echo from the walls. But luckily everything was muffled by the stereo (mostly cassette players) blasting away silly pop songs. You can tell how silly a group of friends are by the songs they pick. Through the first couple of stints I kept drifting through the studios until I found myself in a quite place with classic music playing in the background, and few older guys (we call them 'mostanfezeen'; i.e. students who had previously exhausted all chances of passing a certain year and now they're given another chance) with beards, and where the flesh omnipresence took a backseat to the somber faces of those who are about to fail. But there's still a token presence somehow (since female student constituted 60% of the overall population), although it may not be as distractive.
I still have many more stories to tell from my college days, but the post had already gotten long enough (no pun intended) and I fear that you're already bored. So I'll touch down on the rest of them later. Damn, those memories are still so very fresh and vivid; hands down, those were the best days of my life.