You're rudely awakened from a comfy doze in Ec 10 lecture when the person next to you whips out his stainless steel ruler to copy a simple supply and demand curve from the board.
You find another of the same amusingly annoying species in the Cabot Science Librarym where the person studying at the desk next to you can't seem to bear opening her biology book beyond a 45 degree angle for fear of breaking the spine.
Alas, even your room isn't safe from the species: today, your roommate has decided to label all his CDs with green dots in order to distiguish them from yours, and has cleaned, swept and vacuumed the room for the third time this week.
But at least he isn't re-alphabetizing his Pendaflex files. That was yesterday.
Echoes of the Epithet
There's a term for your roommate and your friends in Ec 10 and Cabot. Echoes of the epithet can be heard across campus from lectures in Sanders Theater to Bio 2 in the Science Center to meetings of the Society of Nerds and Geeks (SONG) in Mather House. In slightly less than scientific terms, all of the above cases demonstrate the Anal Retentive at Harvard (ARH).
But what, exactly, does anal retentive mean? Indeed, when one is so surrounded by it, it's hard to know.
So I asked around.
The Clicking Chorus
In search of the real experts, I went to the infamous mecca of anal retentive behavior--the Science Center, where I sat in on a Biology 2 lecture by Professor Karel Liem. In this course, students, almost without exception, take notes not only meticulously, but with Bic clicker four-color pens.
Bio 2 student Melissa A. Mazzini '94 recalls her first exposure to the phenomenon. "It was the first day of class...It was like there were crickets in the room. It was crazy," Mazzini says. Now she and her roommate use five separate pens to avoid joining in the clicking chorus.
Liem says he does not mind all the clicking in lecture; rather, he sees "the merit of the clicking."
"I find that using color really makes things much clearer," says Liem, who, coincidentally, often uses more than four colors of chalk on the blackboard.
At this point, I was amused, but still confused. So I took my question first to Cabot Science Library, and then out beyond the Science Center. There I found more revealing answers.