This story is for Lucy, an undecided 15 year old, wondering what to do next.
Emily was an engineer.
“Is that like an architect?” asked Thomas as he gazed at her steadily, placing his wine glass carefully back on the table.
“kind of, not really”.
She’d met him online – well to be honest on Tinder. So she knew he had a nice smile, but in person he had quite a presence too. He had nice shoulders. They’d texted a few times, then a lot. He’d rung her while she was swimming, she’d rung him back. He’d suggested this little place and now here they were… talking. It was all a bit awkward, but in a good way.
“architects are like GP’s, structural engineers are like brain surgeons”
She liked putting it like that. It sounded more dramatic than just saying she was a specialist. And it wasn’t just brain surgeons that were smart, it had been such hard work becoming an engineer, and now she’d got chartered as well. It was a real achievement, so she forgave herself for a bit of boasting. It was a first date after all. And those letters after her name had required all her intellect and all her persistence. She studied maths, science and art for A-level. Then she’d had done a masters in engineering at university, with placements in different firms over the holidays. After working for a few years, she’d got enough experience and responsibility to pass the Institution of Civil Engineers membership process.
“oh really” Thomas looked impressed. “So what kind of stuff do you do?”
She noticed while he was talking that he had freckles on his nose. And she was about to answer his question when the pizza arrived (she’d asked if they could get a big one and share, so she could test his generosity – and make sure he didn’t eat any garlic!). They refilled their wine glasses from the bottle and chewed thoughtfully in silence for a few minutes.
“well.. “ she tried to think of a good way to explain it. Thomas caught her gaze while she was staring at his arm muscles, he smiled, but she was sure she was blushing. Before it got any worse, she stammered on.
“well … have you ever been to a gym where the floor was bouncy ?”
“yeh my one at uni was like that”
“well one thing I do, is I advise architect’s how to stop that.”
“I guess you could say structural engineers design the skeleton of a building, how it stands up. But every building is different, so every structural skeleton we design is a bit different. Weight-lifters need bigger bones than jockeys, women and men have different skeletons. Our bodies just adapt over time, but when you’re designing a block of flats you have to know how big the skeleton will be, before you start the foundations. Most buildings you can’t see the skeleton, but sometimes you can like the Eiffel Tower, or the Millenium Brid..”
Emily was cut short. She’d been getting quite passionate about engineering and been waving her hands about, she was just about to talk about her favourite structures, when Thomas seized the moment and leant in for a kiss.