How bad am I?
I’m so bad that on Tuesday night, for the first time in roughly 22 years of schooling, I got kicked out of class. I’m shocked. Shocked! I’ve always been a good student. A really good student. A favorite among certain literature professors. During my undergraduate work I never got less than an ‘A’ in an English class.
Now I will freely admit for about 90% of the time, I didn’t read the entire assignment. This applies to my entire undergraduate career, every course from GenEd to Honors. Hey, I’m busy. I’ve got a kid, a husband, a sense of cleanliness, and a love of sleep. My strategy was to skim the text, keeping in mind what themes/motifs/discourses the professor usually touched on (you can predict an English professor’s entire trajectory through a course within the first two weeks of class!), googling a synopsis of the text in case I got called on to give a plot summary, and volunteering early in class. This last part was key. Volunteer early before the prof gets too deep into the text and you will thereby avoid getting called on (and exposed for the fraud you are) later. Also, thumbing through your book and periodically marking a passage lends your performance an air of authentic studiousness.
But last night, all this strategy was for naught. Here are my primary mistakes:
1) I made a bad impression on the first day of class. I get off of work at five o’clock. Exactly five o’clock. Class starts at five o’clock. Exactly five o’clock. At a really fast pace I can get to my class from my office in about five minutes. This does not please my professor. He commented on it twice during that first class, but he did it in such a manner that I couldn’t tell if he was genuinely upset by my tardiness or if he was just being ironically upset. I wrote him an email explaining the situation and he seemed understanding but his reply still had that weird semi-serious/semi-ironic tone. (In it, he addressed me as “R2.” I know he was trying to be hip and stuff, but it was just kind of unnerving.) Regardless, the first impression, i.e. my tardiness, was made and the fact that it’s guaranteed to continue throughout the semester I’m sure has set the professor’s opinion ever so slightly against me.
2) I had no books. Nothing to thumb through. Nothing to focus on while avoiding eye contact with the prof. Nothing to quote. It’s like a drag queen without her fake eyelashes, a graduate student without her trendy, rectangular, smart-girl glasses. I had nothing to disguise the truth. In fact, I hadn’t gotten the books yet. By some miraculous alignment of the stars, all of them were available at the library and I had intended to get them yesterday during my lunch hour but then my husband picked me up and took me out for Indian food and, well, I never got the books.
3) I raised my hand. In prefacing our discussion of the second short story of the night, the professor asked who in the class had kids. And I, being the honest soul I am, raised my hand. Then he called on me and I, realizing the trap I’d just blithely stumbled into, crumbled inwardly.
“Okay, tell us what you thought about ‘Torch Song,’” said the prof.
“Uh. I . . . don’t have the book yet,” I mumbled, lamely. “I haven’t been able to get to the bookstore.”
“I know they’ve got copies at the library.”
“Yeah,” I reply, clearly fumbling. “I’ve got the call numbers in my bag.” I did have the call numbers, neatly listed on the back of a lime green sheet from the “While You Were Out” memo pad I use at work.
“The library’s open right now.”
“It’s open until midnight,” I say, unable to suppress the years I spent as a student aide reciting library hours to harried patrons.
“Why don’t you go to the library.” He states this last bit. It’s not a question or a suggestion. “Get the books and then come back. Or don’t, since you wouldn’t have read them. It seems like a waste of time for you to sit there.”
I’m still squirming inside at this point but I did my best to suck it up and, with what I’d like to think was a combination of dignity and flippancy, said, “Allright.”
Then I picked up my stuff and left the room, no doubt to some suppressed twitters.
Why I’m Not Nearly as Upset by This As I Should Be:
1) I’m secretly thrilled. I’ve never been kicked out of anywhere. True, in my younger days I participated in my fair share of mildly illicit extracurricular activities, but I’ve always been a model student. A brainy suck-up of the Lisa Simpson variety, if you will. Now, I’ve got a rep. I’ve tasted the sweet excitement of a petty infraction. I think my street cred rating just went up.
2) I agreed with the professor. It was a waste of time for me to sit through 2.5 hours of discussion over material I hadn’t read. I’d silently been wishing I’d skipped when the shit went down, so I suppose being asked to leave was a blessing.
3) Solidarity. Dear friend and fellow blogress, Firewings (she of IndecisivePeach fame), and I took this writing class together. And, in a show of solidarity, ballsy support, and straight-up kick-ass-ination, she packed up and left class with me when I got kicked out. I can’t express how touched I was when she did that. It was like the “who’s coming with me” scene in Jerry Maguire but without the pathetic begging. She’d watched the whole situation escalate and later would characterize the exchange between the professor and me as “a good student at heart getting razzed is like watching men club baby seals.” Wow. Thank you, F.