Saturday, May 14, 2005

Raise Your Hand If You'd Like to Stay After Class and Help Teacher Clean the Intel Pentium 4 Processor

I am now teaching a summer session at a university specializing in aeronautics, which is awesome, because… don't you sleep better at night knowing that I am at least partially responsible for the education of the person who in the next five years will be flying the 747 you'll be taking from Atlanta to Dallas?

This college is also a major artery into the armed forces, so expect to see the quality of the military decline immediately. We should be a fourth-world power by noon.

As previously discussed, I am a professional now, and have surpassed the childish first-day need to hide from my students in my car. This time, I hid in the bathroom, which I will never do again because I accidentally walked past one of my students, the same student, both going into and coming out of the bathroom, and let us just say that I took my time, hoisting pantyhose and fluffing hair and applying for a bank loan and basically everything men think we do in there that takes so damn long, and I think you'll agree that initial contact in an extended bathroom context is far, far worse than standing at the podium attempting to pretend that 27 people aren't out there staring and judging and pre-hating and all. Next semester I will try hiding in the copier.

They gave me an office, but I share it with maybe 47 other professors and they’re always in there, all the time. Office hours are assigned by seniority, so I get the room for thirty-eight seconds at 2:29 AM on Fridays in Lent. This is fine with me, as one of the other occupants has tacked up paintings of oranges and people on bicycles, and I don’t want people coming in there and thinking that I like to sit in rooms where this sort of thing goes on.

There are a lot of men at this university, terrifying in pointy hair and baseball caps and chin piercings. They spend a lot of time regarding me with very serious expressions, because I am the professor and I am in charge. Also, I have boobies.

And, apparently, the wisdom of many, many years. “I’m going to give you ten minutes for a writing exercise,” I told them. “Write two short paragraphs about where you were on New Year’s Eve at the turn of the millennium.”

They stared at me. “Do you need more time?” I said.

“What if we don’t remember?”

“Yeah. That was, like, five years ago.”

It is a high-tech sort of place, and there is no chalk, only gigantic wipe-off boards and the dashboard of the International Space Station installed at the podium. I have a laser pointer attached to the wall and a big flat monitor screen with a built-in DVD player. This is a slight contrast to my most recent teaching appointment, where we had one piece of chalk per floor and an Atari console in the faculty lounge.

They actually had to bring in somebody from IT to train me in use of my classroom, which took about five hours, because there is no end to the fascination provided by a laser pointer. (It makes a big red dot! Wherever you point it!) I started randomly pushing buttons on the panel, because if it were possible to attain hyperspace I wished to know this before the class started filing in, and the IT guy was all, “I can’t believe this equipment.”

“I knoooooooooooooow!” I was sweeping my right arm around in front of the deep blue projection screen, because if you took a lot of drugs and squinted really hard it looked like I was gesturing at jet streams on the Weather Channel.

“We’ve been needing to upgrade for eight whole months now.”

To a person who grew up in a German Catholic school system, where we watched filmstrips hosted by this dynamic new reporter named David Brinkley and formed an understanding of fine arts by constructing mosaics out of scraps of leftover construction paper, this is indeed an unfamiliar universe. I can’t believe I ever used Windows ME, like, four years ago.

pitfall! at:


Simon said...
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Erik Mann said...
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