A Scandalous Story of Love: The Year of the Rat

I had decided after taking several neuroscience/neuropsychology classes that the brain completely fascinated me.

I signed up for a two-semester independent study my senior year, working in a rat lab with one of my favorite professors .

I attended surgeries where probes were inserted into the brains of female rats to measure the release of dopamine.

We tested the rats’ chemical responses to different stimuli for months at a time.

Rats are naturally nocturnal animals, behaving more actively when the lights are low, therefore studies were conducted in rooms illuminated with red lights.

I spent hours per week working in the “red light district” which strongly reeked of ammonia and cedar chips.

While I found the research very interesting…

I quickly learned that hanging out in dimly lit rooms, connecting and disconnecting rats from machines, was really not my idea of a good time.

Perhaps it was the day, when one little rat decided she wasn’t in the mood to participate, that changed my career ambitions forever.

I was plugging her head into the wire, just as I had done a thousand times before, when she quickly turned her head, sinking four very long teeth into my right index finger.

That rat literally hung from my finger for seconds.

I was unsure how to proceed… to preserve science or my finger?

Ultimately I chose self-preservation, shaking the rat from my injured digit and watching it fall to the floor.

It ran about the dark testing room, while I reached deep down inside myself trying to muster up enough courage to grab the perpetrator and get her plugged back into the data collector.  When it was finally done, I collapsed hard into the plastic chair, completely spent, my heart still racing with adrenaline.

Yup, I had pretty much figured out then and there, that this was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

Sure… I was encouraged that everyone gets bitten at some point and then you become very deliberate about the way you hold the dangerous rodents.

Yes… I was reassured that these lab rats are “clean” and don’t carry diseases as wild rats can.

Nevertheless, the bump on my finger grew and my professor suggested I get it checked out.

It didn’t seem to be infected but they put me on antibiotics prophylactically.

The hand specialist I saw next, believed the rat had somehow hit a tendon, causing a cyst to form.

Surgery was scheduled, the cyst removed, but as anyone can see by examining my finger, it’s never been the same since.

SO with a bumpy right index finger, I spent my final semester of college, finishing the coursework required for Physician Assistant Programs instead.  I planned to complete my healthcare experience following graduation.  I rehearsed my new motto, ‘Choose people, not rats!’

As the snow began melting and blades of bright green grass tentatively poked their way through the soft ground, Duff began sending out resumes looking for computer science work.  He went to a couple of interviews but none of the opportunities appealed to him.

Now I don’t know exactly how the idea popped into his head, but I’m certain it entered his head first and not my own.

“Kell, we’re never going to be this free again.”

“What do you mean exactly?”

“We’re never going to have so little responsibility, so few commitments.  It is never going to be this easy for us to move again.  We can move anywhere in this country.  Anywhere.  Where should we go?”

And so it began, the brainstorming of cities.





And then an article in Fortune Magazine convinced us…

‘The Triangle’ was the place for us.

It had lots of computer and healthcare opportunities.

The cost of living was lower.

It had a warmer climate.

It was on the East cost, closer to family and a cheaper move.

But how would we get there?  We had no car.

Where would we live?  We had $500 between us.

We weren’t even married.

We didn’t have jobs.

We needed a plan.

Yes…we needed a plan.

Speak Your Mind