Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Like, am I so molding minds or what?

"Like, are you in your office," asked the high-pitched, squeally voice on the other side of my slightly ajar office door.

I was -- and, thanks to this nail-gun of a voice, even awake. But should I tell her? After all, I wasn't holding my official "office hours," so technically I wasn't "in" my office even though I was, in fact, there. Somehow, though, I had a feeling that French existentialism was too much for my visitor.

Hmmmmmmmmm . . . sit there quietly, or get up?; sit there quietly, or get up?; sit there quietly, or . . .

Before I could continue to volley this moral conundrum in my head, the door slowly opened at a pace consistent with a horror movie scene, you know, when the door opens to reveal a foot gingerly walking on a squeaky floor, while the potential victim hides under the bed, meat ax in hand, hoping to avoid a confrontation with her stalker, yet ready if it happens. Standing in front of me was a young woman, hair pulled up into a scrunched knot, with a pony tail shooting straight up into the air, dangling about. Red sweats tucked into brown suede boots with enough exterior fur to stir the consciousness of even the most devoted hunter and trapper. She twisted the top of a Diet Coke bottle and began to look around my office. Then she looked at me.

"Like, oh my God, you are so here! Would you like a lollipop?"

"I am here," I acknowledged, smiling on the outside, crying on the inside, for this was a sure sign that I was now holding office hours, even if I wasn't. I was now talking to someone I did not know and had never seen. "And no thank you."

"Oh, my God, you totally don't know me, but I so know who you are, because, like, my friends have all had your class and they were like, you so have to take this class and because, like, you know, like, they were so all about you that I'm like, definitely!"

Dear God, Perry Mason, Tony Soprano, Sandra Bullock . . . someone, anyone, please help me.

"So, are you selling Tupperware, or is this just a courtesy call," I volunteered.

"Selling Tupperware, oh my God, that is so funny! No, but can I come see you when we have my sorority fundraiser? . . . I think we're selling something for cancer or the homeless shelter, I'm not sure. My friend, do you remember her (she offered no name) said you were like, so funny, and I'm like, really, and she's like, oh my God, and then my other friend, who you may not remember because he's not very smart said like, yeah, but like you really have to work in your class and that you call on people, so, like, whatever, I'm ready."

"And what class are you taking?"

"See, here's the thing: like, I'm not signed up yet."

"So . . . which one do you want to take?"

"How many are there?"

This stranger who, by now, had morphed into a novelty act, was now going to pay for her untimely interruption of the nap I felt coming on before SHE ENTERED MY LIFE, UNINVITED.

"I thought you said your friends took my class that you had to take. I assume you know which one that was?"

"Oh, my God, like, you are so right! Okay, it's the one about the Constitution, definitely!"

"In one way or another, they're all about the Constitution."

"Really?"

"Really."

"All right, oh my God, you must think I am so, like, whatever, for coming here and being, like so clueless. All I know is that it's the class I have to take before I graduate."

My visitor had just uttered a sentence without using the word "like." Progress. Or was it?

"What class did your advisor say you needed to graduate," I asked.

"My advisor? Like, I not sure which one it is, but I so haven't gone to see her yet."

"So how do you know which class you need to graduate?"

"It's the one my friends took."

Through the looking glass; in the twilight zone; caught in the funhouse -- pick any literary metaphor you like -- we were deep inside of nowhere-land now.

"So when you say you need this class, which you can't identify, to graduate, do you mean something like I won't have lived a full life until I climb Mt. Everest? It's not something I need to do; it's something I want to do so bad that it is, in a way, a life necessity."

Her mouth came open, and she gave me a very serious look. For the first time since coming into my office, she stopped twisting the bottle top to her Diet Coke. "Oh, my God, you climbed Mt. Everest?!? When? That is sooooo amazing."

"No, I haven't climbed Mt. Everest nor do I plan to. What I'm trying to say is, that for you, your college experience won't be complete until you've taken this class that you can't identify?"

Blink-blink. Blink-blink. Blink-blink.

"Try this: you don't need to go to Paris or Venice or Rome or London to live your life. You won't die or go to jail if you don't go. But your life will be much better for it, and you'll come home and say, "You just have to go to Paris or your life isn't complete."

"OH, MY GOD, THAT IS SO TRUE. I WAS ON STUDY ABROAD LAST SPRING IN MADRID AND IT WAS SO, LIKE, AWESOME, THAT, LIKE, I TOLD ALL MY FRIENDS THEY SO HAVE TO GO OR THEY WILL DIE!"

"Right," I said, "but you didn't mean that literally they would die if they didn't go."

"NO! Not, like, they would "die" (the hands went up for mock quotation marks) die. They would just like, you know, die."

"Well, you still haven't said which one you want to take. And are you aware that class registration hasn't started yet?"

"Oh, my God, really, not even for me?"

"Not even for you, whose name I don't know, and who I have never seen until now."

"Really, you don't remember me?"

"Have we met?"

"You know, like, I'm not sure. I think my other friend introduced us when we saw you one day in, like, Mary Graydon. Right on. Look, I have to go because I have a class. But I will so see you in January, so be ready for me!"

"The only way I'll see you is if I see you around campus. Registration hasn't started yet."

"Okay, you'll see. I'll be an awesome student and so read everything you assign, I swear . . . I don't want to be one of those people you make fun of."

"You, make fun of you," I answered. "How could I possibly make fun of you?"

"See, told ya!"

And with that coda, she turned around and left, fully convinced that she was signed up for a class that wasn't open for registration and, better yet, one that she couldn't name.

Stay tuned.

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