How to walk across a college campus

This was an assignment that I did for class, and I thought it might be an enjoyable read. 

            It is a commonly known, and perhaps unavoidable phenomenon, that a student may have many friends on a college campus. These acquaintances are sometimes kindled in classrooms, but often are established during Friday night parties when boy meets girl or girl meets boy or boy meets boy or girl meets girl and ensuing activities are completely lost upon either party because the effects of the communal alcohol are too potent.

Most people know that the standard operating procedure for scurrying across campus is with your head down, eyes averted, and backpack weighing down your shoulders so that one day, when scoliosis inevitably claims your back, you will be glad that you went to university and became a musty and useless academician.

But before this disease annexes your back, it is essential to know that there are four categories of students who are either unaware of this protocol, or who choose to ignore it.

The first student is simply uninformed, socially amiss, or unaware of the unwritten rules that are part and parcel of the college experience. Occasionally, he will accidentally look up from the fascinating cracks in the sidewalk and make eye contact with a familiar face. This is when he breaks out into a cold sweat, because he doesn’t know from where he recognizes the face. Is it from that drunken party that he went to last Saturday night, which made his attendance at his 8 am Sunday morning extra-curricular physics club impossible? They approach each other, each bearing a half smile and then quickly averting his eyes so as not to indicate a real recognition or acknowledgement. It is an accidental twitch of the mouth as an insurance policy in case either is erroneous in his judgment, and they truly are best friends from pre-school.

The second category of students is the kind who believes that they have done the world a favor by entering into its orbit. They make a point of looking everyone in the eye as they waltz across the sidewalk and through the meticulously tended lush grass that carpets much of the campus grounds. There is another lesser-known, unwritten rule about the grass on a college campus: don’t walk through it. The environmental groupies will stare you down and others will look at you funny, as if they had always wanted to walk through the grass themselves but it had never actually occurred to them to do so. These students, the grass-tramplers, are the most obnoxious specimens to be found. When they spot acquaintances, their boisterous voices boom across the street, echoing off every object in sight.

“Yo, Sam!” they yell. “Long time no speak!”

The recipient of this nuisance is equally irritating. As he slowly removes his green-framed, plastic sunglasses, with all the time in the world, recognition dons upon his face and he crosses the street, despite the oncoming traffic, and pounds his “bro’s” fist.

The girls are perhaps worse, although provide much more amusement to curious spectators. There are always spectators in these instances. They shriek giddily when they pass a friend on the sidewalk, and jump up and down, generally two or three times, before they extend their arms as far as they will reach and wrap them around the other girl. They stay this way for perhaps four seconds, release each other, and hug again.

The last student does his or her job remaining staunch in minding his or her own business fairly well, aware of the protocol and sticking to it most of the time. However, occasionally he or she slips up, and the consequences are disastrous for the innocent victim.

I was a perpetrator of this unacceptable behavior yesterday. Waiting for a friend outside, near the business school on campus, I succumbed to pretending to text so that I did not have to appear lonesome and friendless. I started walking in the direction that my friend would be coming from, and I finally saw her approaching. However, a dilemma was presented to me: in front of her was a guy on a bike, and so if I waved to her, he might think I was waving at him. But I had to get her attention, so I waved to her anyway. She saw me, and waved back, but the poor young, innocent man had no idea that my friend walked behind his bike. Thus he thought I was waving to him, and he lifted his hand and waved back. As I walked toward both his bike and my friend, I tried to indicate, unsuccessfully, that I didn’t know him. He looked directly in my face as he approached, confusion spelled out all over it, but also smiling, because perhaps I had greatly boosted his self esteem and confidence. Even after he passed, he craned his neck behind him, trying to figure out what my purpose had been in getting his attention.

Poor chap. I do hope that I didn’t give him too much to think about, or G-d forbid indicate to him that my behavior was in any way acceptable.

At a Professor’s Mercy: the Life of a Religious Student

We’ve all had them, experienced them, had to work with them. They make us mad, and we fume until we no longer within their proximity. We complain to other people about them, and wish every day that our life could have taken a slightly different route so that we had never come into contact with them.

If I had only…If I just…If he didn’t…

Obnoxious people.

For me, they come in the form of a rude and conceited professor this semester. A family wedding in Israel required me to miss the first week of classes, which I knew would prompt a rocky start. I tried to anticipate and quell this by emailing all of my professors before the semester started, to give them a heads-up. This professor, who had been emailing us the whole summer telling us to prepare for the fall class by reading the Washington Post daily (because apparently summer articles were fair game for fall quizzes), did not email back.

Off I went, and back I came.

My other professors and TAs were more or less understanding, and tried to help me make up the work. On the first day I made it to this professor’s class, the conversation, which happened during class, went something like this:

Professor: “Why don’t you have the assignment? Missing deadlines and not completing work already?!”

Me: “I don’t have the assignment because I wasn’t there the first day of class. I was the one who emailed you about my family circumstance abroad.”

Professor: “I don’t check my email!” *grumbles under breath*

When I went over to him after class to further explain myself, he demanded documentation for my absence. The next class I asked to arrange the mandatory one-on-one meeting with him that my peers were finishing. He again asked why I hadn’t organized mine yet, at which point I had to remind him that I was the one absent on the first day of class…remember? He grumbled that he didn’t remember, and asked if I knew his office hours, which were on the syllabus. Did I have my syllabus on me? he asked. (His syllabus is 20 single-spaced pages, with weird abbreviations and acronyms that are impossible to decipher.) No, I didn’t. He then yelled that I could come back to him when I was responsible enough to lug his syllabus everywhere. He was condescending and rude, and has no interest whatsoever in helping his students succeed. I walked away nearly in tears.

At the meeting I had with him today, which I finally managed to arrange, he was ten minutes late, which was a big deal considering that it was a 15 minute meeting and my next class was a hike away. He apologized for being late, which surprised me (although he reassigned blame to other people.) He was rude again throughout, trying to intimidate me. he decided to grill me about his textbooks, demanding to know what dates I had purchased them on and other irrelevant details. When I told him that one of my orders had been cancelled but that I had re-ordered it and it hadn’t arrived yet, he grilled me more, and I donned an air of confidence and a tone of authority that surprised me.

Professor: “Have you checked out the University Book store?”

Me: “Yes, but I’d rather not pay $115 twice for a textbook if I don’t have to.”

Professor, sarcastically: “DO YOU WANT TO PASS THE COURSE?!?!”

Me, staring him down: “Yes, and I will. It will come within a few days.”

Then he backed down. My woes don’t end here, and he is now requiring documentation for my religious holiday absences. When I tried to show him a Jewish calendar, he somewhat sarcastically asked if I wasn’t orthodox. I responded that I was, which he confirmed with a smirk and nod, and demanded an authorized note from a rabbi.

I’m sure it will be a fun semester, as he seems to have really taken to me, with a kindhearted, affectionate approach. Well, he is serving some purpose in my life-it’s my job now to figure out what that is.

Transportation Perspirations, Part III: Aerial

Ah…the airport. My home away from home. How can one not love to experience this benchmark of human ingenuity and social progress? When I was younger, my father worked for U.S. Airways, and our family flew stand-by. We took Sunday day trips to San Francisco, Seattle, and Tampa; spent 72 hours in Amsterdam and 48 hours in London, and left at the drop of a hat on my parents’ whim to an exotic destination of their choice. On Monday, my classmates would ask me where I had flown the previous day, and I would answer casually that we’d stopped into Charlotte, NC, or St. Louis for a few hours. In between, my father took us to the airport to watch the planes take off.

Being the well-traveled, educated, and all-around awesome person that I am, I’ve had my fair share of travel. But for some reason, we’ve always had back luck with flight timing. On my recent trip to Israel, I visited five airports in two weeks. ALL FOUR out of FOUR United flights were delayed, with Swiss Air being the only one to depart on time. 

Thank heavens for Germanic precision.

On my return trip I had a nonstop flight from Tel Aviv to Newark (EWR), with a three hour layover between the flight to Dulles. A light drizzle was falling in Newark, and most flights were either delayed or cancelled. I ran on a wild goose chase, having to claim my bag, go through customs, re-check my bag, and switch terminals on the shuttle, only to discover that my flight to Dulles was leaving from the terminal that I had just left. So I returned to the C terminal, to discover later that our flight was delayed because the flight crew was on a delayed international flight. Great. Newark has no wifi, the people are weird, it’s mobbed, the staff is unhelpful, nearly everyone seems to get pat-downs, terminal transfers are inevitable, and it’s just, simply…unpleasant. (I was informed by a ticket agent on my outbound flight that nearly all flights from DCA to EWR are always delayed, and I suppose EWR’s outbound flights are always delayed too.) 

Then another announcement was made that the flight crew was switched and the 7:40 pm flight was delayed until 9:15 and connections would be missed. I grabbed my stuff and marched to the United customer service and asked to be put on an earlier flight, either to IAD or DCA, but nothing was available. At this point I walked over the United Club, where I begged for the wifi password so I could at least check my email and phone home since I didn’t have my cell phone.

Problem: to enter the lounge, one must be 21 and either have a pass or pay $50, neither of which I qualified for. The receptionist looked around, hesitated, told me she really couldn’t do this, but that I could go in and use my laptop as long as I stayed away from the bar. Success!

When I returned the gate they announced that the flight would be delayed some more. Lovely. We boarded the plane around 10 pm and just SAT on the tarmac for nearly 45 minutes. Someone yelled at the flight attendant to at least keep us informed, and all the passengers in the dinky little RJ, including yours truly, grumbled their agreement. We finally landed at Dulles at 11:30, and I went to the baggage claim and to get a Super Shuttle. To make another long story short, we waited 45 minutes to leave the airport because they wanted to fill up the van. I marched back into the airport, where the driver was simply chilling with the cashier, and through grated teeth I informed both of them that we’d waited for nearly an hour, which was simply outrageous. The cashier told him that we had to leave, and he walked out with me, fairly upset. I didn’t tip him. It’s not PC, but a tip is for good service, and waiting unnecessarily for 45 minutes is certainly, in my book, not good service.

I went to sleep at 2 am that night, and got up for my first day of school at 7.

I’m pretty disappointed with both United Airlines and Super Shuttle, but there are two things I’m thankful for: that woman in the United Lounge who had kids of her own, and my gutsy defiance that, more often than not, lets me manipulate people when the need arises.