Thursday, November 22, 2007

Working Through Vacation

I show up to work Tuesday night, after all the students have left campus except the football and basketball teams, who have games. Every door to the Peterson Event Center is locked. Apparently security misunderstood the building's role as a University building? The University is open until Wednesday at five, even though the students are "on break." I am already flustered because, somehow, I shooshed my very famous professor in class today. He talked while I was talking and I forgot my place in the world and I shooshed the man who is quoted in literally every composition textbook in existence. I shooshed, he laughed, and I began to sweat profusely. Then I go to work and the doors are locked.

I begin to panic because I know my students. They are already sad and pissed that they have to be here over break. They tend to give one tug on a locked door and head home for the PS3. I have to call my big boss in order to get the doors unlocked. Crisis #1.

I run into my hungry student from last year and he gives me a hug. I ask why he has such a huge beard, one that would make a Sikh proud. He tells me there aren't any good "black-folk-barbers" in Pittsburgh, at least not ones that are open during hours he has free. He has to wait until he goes home for Christmas to get a shave. He is very disgruntled about his facial hair and said that I have drawn attention to it. Crisis #2.

My first student of the evening is an enormous student. A doorway sized person with hands the size of my face, thick as a New York bagel. He chooses to hand write his assignment and I ask him, sticking my foot right back in my mouth, why he holds his pencil so awkwardly. He shakes his huge hand in my face and says, "my hand's too damn big! Look at my hand!" I realize that the pencil hides between the folds of his fingers like a sewing needle would in my own paw. Of course he can't hold the pencil properly and of course his fingers, bigger in circumference than a keyboard key, make typing awkward. I have made him aware of his unusual penmanship and he gets frustrated that nothing is his size, from the tiny chair he spews over to the standard door frame that smacks his forehead when he doesn't pay attention. After a few minutes of lamenting, he decides to leave and write his paper another day. Crisis #3

I end the night working with a Floridian student who misses his aunts' cooking and is jealous that I get to see my family when he can't go home until mid-December. He is writing a paper about class in America and doesn't know how to describe adequately the experience of growing up in a poverty stricken neighborhood outside of Naples, wishing all his life for a beach house or at least access to the pristine sand the rich people seem to never let get dirty. The paper and the holidays overwhelm him. He takes frequent bathroom breaks, but discovers the doors to the bathroom have been locked again by security. He wants to give up and go home for the night. We start talking about being left handed and smile that we don't have to switch seats, because neither of us will bump or inhibit the other. He decides to stay for awhile and writes most of his paper. I end the night on a high note.

1 comment:

Jane said...

You work with amazing people. With everything else going on in their lives, it is amazing that they can get any sort of a formal education.