The women in the class - there were four of us - could not help but look around the room to catch one another's eyes. Not one of us said anything - what could we have said?! - but our shared reaction was, I'm sure, equally palpable. What the heck?
Despite that peculiar discomfort, I did still manage to come up with what I thought were a couple of good ideas before I bowed out of that group altogether. The first was for an in-kitchen organic waste disposal system, sending all the kitchen scraps that could be ground up in an in-the-sink gizmo directly to the garden behind the kitchen. Efficient to the max, to pulverize waste before composting: grinding it all up ever so nicely accelerates decomposition of the waste into lovely compost really very quickly.
The idea raised a few eyebrows at the time but some years later, I heard that one of my classmates had picked up on it, incorporated it into an apartment building in Toronto that he had a hand in designing. My own luck with implementing it has been so-so. I wanted to incorporate it into a house in Montreal that I helped renovate but the plumber told me municipal by-laws existed that forbade doing so: we'd have to catch all the gunk in a trap under the sink, hand-carry it down the back stairs and out to the garden because it couldn't be shunted directly. No matter, I still like the idea and would like to see it nicely tested.
The second what-I-thought-was-a-good idea came out of the school's connection with an organization that wanted architecture student input for a building it wanted to construct to house handicapped adults. My big brainstorm for that was to design a new type of toilet, expressly suitable for urination. The design idea was to use a corner of whatever would be the lavatory room, place in that corner some stuff I figured would be easy to invent, which would capture the residue that urine leaves after the liquid evaporates. (There's a word for this stuff in a Tibetan language dictionary.) Because, you see, since urine is sterile and mostly protein, if you let the liquid drain through the (at the time not-quite invented) permeable membrane, out to the compost, it will compost just about as fast as you can whistle Dixie. Earthworms love it: they don't just multiply faster, they grow thick as your thumb.
That second one didn't just raise eyebrows, it inspired what I now guess was genuine shock, which at the time I thought had to be some kind of weird crazy boy-anxiety.
Like - What? Don't try to aim into a 5-gallon bowl of potable water that will get flushed away? Why not? What's wrong with you?
But that, gentle readers, is how I came to decide to leave that school and take a job with a dynamic, intense young urban planner who worked with a firm in another city.
"Be the change you want to see" - right?