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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Kevin is a poor, mentally scarred guinea pig

The scene was the summer after my junior year. I had just completed another day sitting at the Terrace, collecting abandoned pitchers until I had enough to buy a pitcher of Miller Lite with the $1 refund per pitcher returned. It wasn't glamorous, but for a broke college student like me, such was life. But after the Future Business Leaders of America kicked me out of their meeting for taking six slices of free pizza and smelling like a mix of Ale Asylum and urine—the latter an unfortunate side effect of the wrestling match I had with a homeless man on State St. over approximately $1.65 worth of empty cans—I decided my life needed to change.

After a refreshing shower at the SERF (my hot water had been shut off months ago), I hit College Library determined to find a job. It was time to quit running from the bill collectors, quit telling my parents I was working an unpaid internship at The Human Fund and most of all, quit spending all my free time and money on drinking. After convincing the librarian I wasn't just going to look at porn like last time (it was research for a class, I swear!), I pulled up the UW Job Center.

Although I found a few discouraging listings (""Wanted: Pet sitter for my squid. No experience required!"") and a few physical impossibilities (""Spotter needed for the UW football team conditioning, no weak-ass pussy bitches need apply!""), I finally found my dream job listing through the UW Psych Department: ""Get paid to drink! The Psych Department is doing a study of the effects of alcohol on the mind and body. Participants will be compensated $15 per hour for their time."" I thought I had hit the jackpot; finally, a job that I was qualified—perhaps even over-qualified—for! Let the story that follows be a lesson to students everywhere: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In my case, it absofuckinglutely was.

Fast-forward three weeks, and there I was, deep in the recesses of the Psychology building. I was starving due to the 12-hour fasting requirement for the experiment, aroused because the clinician (a gorgeous grad student named Kelly) was giving me a scalp massage and slightly pained because Kelly's scalp massage was immediately followed by my head being covered in hundreds of neural sensors, which were attached by prodding me repeatedly with sharp wooden dowels.

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""Wow, we got these sensors done in record time!"" Kelly said 90 agonizing minutes later. ""Just one more thing, and we'll get started!""

Then Kelly slapped noise-blocker headphones on me, taped a sensor under my right eye that made it twitch uncontrollably and warned me to not move in any way whatsoever, or else the results would be worthless.

But who cares, right? I was about to get my drink on! But no, instead I was subject to the first round of tests. A strange disembodied voice told me to close my eyes and open my eyes at random intervals, with the headphones occasionally blasting my ears with blindingly loud white noise that made me jump and shiver. I felt like a character in Kurt Vonnegut's ""Harrison Bergeron"" every time I tried to form a cognizant thought or simply relax, I was jarred to life again by the unholy burst of sonic torture.

Then came the drinking. Kelly mixed me a stiff vodka concoction, and gave me 10 minutes to drink it. Before I knew it, I was shamelessly flirting with Kelly, despite being strapped to a chair and wearing a metal helmet with 300 sensors poking out.

""How ‘bout we both get a drink later?"" I asked, my eye twitching madly. ""I can mix you a killer mint julep.""

""Well it looks like it's time to start the next part of the experiment!"" Kelly said cheerfully, ignoring my overtures. ""Now we're going to play a little game called ‘gamble your paycheck.'""

I didn't really want to gamble away the only paycheck I'd had in months, but I was given two clickers, one worth 10 cents and one worth a single cent. Then I was shown a series of pictures, which I gambled either 10 cents or 1 cent on. If I picked right, I got the money I wagered. If not, I lost it. Things started innocuously enough, as pictures of flowers and birds floated by. I won some, I lost some. Then, things took a turn for ""A Clockwork Orange."" A naked woman flashed on the screen. Then a car. Then two people having sex. Then a spoon. Then a mutilated corpse. Then a baby with maggots coming out of its eyesockets. Then a woman spreading her ass cheeks. Then a train. Then a waterfall. Then a pile of dead bodies at a concentration camp. Then a blue sky. Then a woman getting raped. During all of this, the blasts of sound had returned, waging a dual assault on my senses along with the shock images of brutal violence I couldn't look away, much less decide how much to wager.

As the test went on, I also became aware of the fact that I needed to pee more than I ever had in my life. I closed my eyes and clicked madly, hoping the test would end. Each blast of sound soon felt like it was hitting me directly in the bladder, forcing me closer and closer to my first accident since age 10. Then came the image of a clown with pieces of glass sticking out of his face. That was the last straw. I leapt from the chair, screaming ""I can't do it anymore!"" and ran for the door, finding it locked. I pounded on the door, praying for someone to come, but to no avail. I collapsed on the floor, reduced to a visage of my infantile self: flashes of breasts, pants full of urine and me doubled over, sobbing. Kelly burst into the room, her face a mask of contorted rage and her experiment ruined. When she saw me huddled on the floor she broke down, a single tear dribbling down her cheek. She was crying. We were crying.

Are you a student who wants to hear more about Kevin's harrowing adventures? Are you a psych professor who wants to protect his department's good name? Are you Kelly, finally returning all his tearful voicemails? E-mail Kevin at

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