Thursday, March 08, 2007

Got them midterm blues . . . dude!

[Note: If the F-bomb offends or scares you, steer clear of this post. Real f- &*%^&-ing clear.]

On the days I do not teach I generally do not attempt to make a fashion statement of any kind. Of course, I am pretty sure that more than one person would argue -- wait, an argument implies an effort -- or point out that on the days I do teach I do not attempt to make a fashion statement of any kind. In defense of myself, I will say that on the days I do teach I more or less resemble a professional adult, although I am pretty sure that more than one person would point out I do not necessarily act like an adult on those days, or, for that matter, on any others.

In my off-duty uniform of jeans and a pullover shirt of some sort -- usually, but not always, clean -- I am often mistaken for just another campus civilian with no special status. And that is a fair assessment, since I am fairly anonymous on campus. I do not belong to any university committees, avoid meetings as much as I can, rarely attend any campus sporting events, never make it to lectures featuring famous Washingtonians (yes, my life is far poorer for failing to hear the collected wit and wisdom of such Washington celebrities as Ari Fleischer, James Carville, Frances Fargo Townsend and numerous other prominent mid-level Washington bureaucrats who have regaled our community with tales of streamlining management in the Postal Service and Office of Management and Budget), make a point not to eat at the University Club unless there is absolutely no other choice and generally have as little to do with campus life as possible. And since most of my students do not like me, my office hours are generally a good time to catch a nap or reorganize my iTunes playlists.

I do not remember seeing my professors around campus when I was in college. And if I did I generally took pains to reduce my immaturity to a manageable level in the event I had to exchange greetings with them. "Hi, Professor Stevens," I might say. "Did you catch the Cardinals on television the other night? Ozzie's play in the 7th inning was amazing." And Professor Stevens might reply, "I did. See you in class."

And that was it. I assume that Professor Stevens knew who I was. But maybe he did not.

One thing I absolutely did not do in the event my professor was standing in front of me at a coffee kiosk or having lunch in an off-campus bar was to start carrying on profanely and loudly about the burden of having to take exams and write papers in between binges of womanizing, man-hunting, drug-seeking adventures and drunken escapades around town. Fortunately, times have changed, and many students feel no such social restriction around adults who could well be an authority figure of some sort, even though they are dressed as if they are preparing to clean their bathrooms or cut the grass.

So, standing on the corner of Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues, NW, the other day, waiting to cross the street to the commuter parking lot, I heard a voice, VERY LOUDLY, ask:

"Dude, like what the fuck is your sorry white ass doing standing on the fucking corner when it is, like, so fucking cold outside?"

Hearing the phrase, "sorry white ass" led me to turnaround. Pathetic, huh? I am, according to the Census Bureau, a white person, and, at this point in my life, I have given up trying to do anything with my ass other than to keep it from falling below my knee line. And I was just about to answer this polite query until I heard the following response:

"Hey, man, like, fuck you, dude!" came the response. "I have put up with so much shit today, like, taking fucking twenty midterms or something, more than, like, I should, that, like, I don't need your fucking shit on top of it!"

Wow!!! These poor, poor, poor students. "Taking fucking twenty midterms" in one day?!? That must be an all-time record. Last time I checked, our undergraduates were not permitted to take twenty classes per semester. Four or five is the normal course load, and many of our undergraduates choose not to attend more than one or two classes in any given semester. But here they were, these poor, beleaguered young men. Looking at them very briefly, their bond was evident. One was dressed in a white fashion Puma zippered sweatshirt with matching white fashion Puma sneakers. The other was dressed in a green fashion Italia zippered sweatshirt with white fashion Adidas sneakers. They both shared an affinity for low-fitting jeans with embroidery on the back pockets . . . like the kind my eight year-old teenage daughter wears.

"Dude, like chill," said Puma Man. "I'm not, like, saying that doesn't suck or anything. I'm just saying, like, what's up 'n shit. Damn bro!"

True confession: I find this kind of dialogue between affluent white college students fairly amusing. Come on -- "what's up 'n shit . . . bro?" Ooooooh . . . the mean streets of Great Neck or Scarsdale . . . it's amazing these kids aren't in jail or dead yet. Thank you, Eminem!

"Check this shit out," said Italia Man. "This one professor, he's, like, 'I'm gonna ask you about every fucking thing we've done since the beginning of the semester, even the fucking reading that he didn't go over in class.' And I'm, like, whatever, dude, fuck you!"

Hmmmm . . . I admit I have said some fairly outrageous things in class, but there is generally a method to my madness. One response I have never given to the inevitable question I get from a student when I announce the midterm date, "What do you plan to ask on the midterm," is "I'm gonna ask you about every fucking thing we've done since the beginning of the semester, even the fucking reading I didn't go over in class." And while a student may have thought, "Hey, man, fuck you!" when I announced what material I was going to include on the exam, which generally does include everything we've done, including the reading we haven't gone over, since the beginning of the semester, no one has ever said that TO me. ABOUT me, sure. But TO me . . . uh, no.

"I heard that shit, man," said Puma Man. "But, like, fucking look . . . I'm like so done with midterms now. Do you want to come to my place and party? I'm, like, so ready to get fucking wasted. Check this out: I was supposed to turn in this paper in this one class and I'm like, dude, no way I could finish so I, like, told the professor I had to go home for personal reasons and he's, like, whatever, so I'm, like, see ya."

"FUCK YEAH," screamed Italia Man. And I mean he screamed LOUD . . . REALLY . . . FUCKING LOUD. At this point, a young woman who, by all appearances was an AU student, fell backwards on her 4" heels right to the ground, so startled was she by this near-primal scream. I offered to help her up and she accepted, not knowing, of course, who I was for the very same reason that no one, except some (but by no means all) of my students, knows who I am.

"What the fuck is your fucking problem, asshole?" This question was directed towards Italia Man, who responded, "I don't have a fucking problem. What is YOUR fucking problem?"

By this point the light had changed and we could have crossed. But the battle was on and I was going to stick around.

"I don't have a fucking problem you screaming fucking lunatic. YOU ALMOST FUCKING KILLED ME," Stiletto Woman screamed back.

"Right. Almost, like, fucking killed you or whatever. You fell on your fat ass. Not my problem."

"Is too your fucking problem you fucking idiot. Fuck you, asshole. And my ass isn't fat!"

Mmmm . . . they each had a point. Puma Man was a fucking idiot, no doubt. But he absolutely did not almost fucking kill her. She fell backwards, away from the street. It was a draw. As far as the size of her ass, I have no opinion.

"Fuck me? Like that's going to happen . . . I wouldn't, like, fuck you if, like, you paid me."

I knew this was coming. If not for the fact that I do not include the word "like" every second or third word in my sentences, I could have mouthed the response in harmony to Puma Man's oh-so-quick comeback. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Puma Man reminded me of the moronic weatherman played by Steve Carrell in "Anchorman."

"Yeah, like, I wouldn't pay you and I wouldn't let you for free either, so fuck you."

"Fuck you?" Again? I thought she just said that she wouldn't . . . that he couldn't . . . oh, never mind.

Italia Man attempted to intervene. "Yo, y'all . . . let's just chill. I think everyone is, like, a little stressed over midterms. Can we just, like, cool this shit down?"

"Like, who isn't fucking stressed out about midterms . . . Jesus . . . just go away."

At that point, the light changed again and we all started to cross the street. Puma Man, Italia Man and Stiletto Woman whipped out their phones as if this were an Olympic synchronized cell phone competition and starting yammering away . . . about nothing, I am sure. But Italia Man took enough of a break to yell over to Puma Man, who was walking to his BMW convertible that, as fate would have it, was parked next to my car, which is not a BMW convertible, "Dude, that chick was so into you, you so totally have to find a way to, like, go out with her."

"Dude, I so hear you. It sucks that we're coming up on spring break or I would totally track her down. She was fucking hot!"

Midterm blues. I don't get it. Whatever.


Carlos said...

I suppose they also want a detailed study guide, including the questions to be asked. Hell, why not just give them 5 questions and let them pick 4, why not 3, or 2 or just one?

I can see it now: "Damn dude, like, fuck! Shit! That prof was an asshole! He like, gave us five questions to study, and said he would only put one on the fucking test man! Who does he think he fucking is? I don't have time for that shit! Why can't he just give me the one fucking question he will like, put on the test and shit! I have better shit to do! I hope that fucker doesn't give Cs like my other cool profs."

Jen Singleterry said...

Whenever you feel like you're not serving a purpose during your office hours, come down to our office and protect us from crazy, disgruntled students. Seriously. Schaffner has proved himself unworthy of the task.