Monday, December 12, 2005

Reminiscing about My First Day of College (AKA "What a prick!")

My first day of college was a long one beginning with Physics for Non-Majors at 10:30 AM and ending with Freshmen Composition, a three-hour class that met once a week at 6:30 PM. I also didn't live on campus. I commuted from my parents' house (about a 35 mile drive) for the first few weeks of the semester. I like to think those facts contributed to some ill-advised decisions/behavior during that first English class.

Those of you who know me know that I am not the most social of people to strangers and I have a small issue with social anxiety. You can imagine how pleased I was when the instructor announced our first activity would be to pair with a classmate, interview them (and get interviewed as well), and write a paper to introduce them to the rest of the class.

To protect the innocent, I will change the name of my interviewee. She was a fairly attractive blonde country girl we'll call LaDonna Simpson. During our interview, I was immediately struck by LaDonna's southern accent. I started thinking about various interviews I had read with athletes from small southern towns in Sport Illustrated and how the writer would always remark on the accent. They were always poignant and non-judgmental; after all there is nothing wrong with being a little "country". I got it stuck in my head I wanted to do the same thing with LaDonna.

I don't remember much of the interview, but I remember reading the paper. After a few mundane sentences into my first paragraph, I wrote something to the effect of

    "After a few lines of dialogue with Ms. Simpson, one thing is apparent: Purcell, Oklahoma is as country as it sounds."

As soon as the last word left my mouth, the class let out a collective "ooh", like I had just called her fat or flat or ugly or any of the other myriad of insults middle school boys use to taunt their female counterparts. It sounded a lot better in my head. In fact, this was really the first time I had found a southern accent not only less than repulsive, but even mildly charming. I guess it was the first time I had heard one that wasn't littered with the typical grammatical errors generally associated with southern accents.

In hindsight, I should have stopped and explained I intended no insult, but my fear of public speaking clung firmly to my initial objective: to get through this unpleasantness as quickly as possible. The next semester would only inflame my regret as LaDonna was the only student that was in both my English I and English II classes. I do recall her never speaking to me again. In my defense, she probably would have never spoken to me had we not been paired up on the first day of class.

After all of the interview papers were read, the instructor had everyone go around the room and say two or three unique things about ourselves that were not mentioned in the interview. I don't remember what I said as I was completely overshadowed by a classmate.

I remember there being two guys in the class that were friends, while the rest of us were completely on our own. Nothing of much interest was said until it got to one of the two friends.

He said, "I am hypoglycemic. I make 20,000 copies a week, and I am routinely abducted by aliens".

This got a collective laugh from the class excluding me. I thought it was kind of a lame joke. The instructor questioned his seriousness. He was steadfast. The more convinced I became he believed aliens abducted him, the less I was able to control my laughter. Most of the class had stopped laughing at this point.

He continued, "I was carry around some alien paraphernalia, so in case I am abducted by new guys, they will know I am cool".

The question on everyone's mind, "Do you have any alien paraphernalia on you now?" was asked by our instructor.

"Yes", he said, and proceeded to pull out a medium density plastic triangle. It look to be denser than a plastic Frisbee, but presumably less dense than the high-density polymer plastic gun used by Mitch Leary. Affixed to each vertex of the green triangle were a few foldout tools. It was like a Swiss army knife times 1.5.

He unfolded a tool resembling a prison shank, and said "Like this could be used to dig or whatever."

"As you can see, they are very advanced" his friend taunted. I lost it. I am a sucker for sarcasm.

Some people were still occasionally chuckling. My face was buried in my hands, totally losing my shit. It was as close as I have ever come to blowing a funny fuse. The alleged abductee, however, seemed to get more and more visibly flustered. The instructor tried to smooth things over, stating the student really believed he was being abducted, it was very real to him, and we should respect that. I tried my best to be mature, but I seemed to start laughing about it again every few minutes for the duration of the class's first session.

Obviously, the lesson here is that I am a really insensitive asshole.


At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Adrienne G. said...

You would have laughed at Barney Hill even if that was your only class of the day and you lived five minutes from campus, and you know it.

At 10:17 AM, Blogger Jim B said...

Hmm, Barney Hill

That's probably true, but I am trying to convince the Internet I am a nicer person than I really am.

At 3:15 PM, Blogger gus away from the metroplaza said...

Purcell, Oklahoma really is as country as it sounds. Last time I was there I had the pleasure of listening to Braum's employee Bobby Joe complain about not getting to work enough hours because he had football practice every night. Judging from his abilities with a mop, I suspect he lacked the coordination to actually play football and probably just sat on the bench. Either way, my french fries were overcooked.

At 3:47 PM, Blogger Jim B said...

Why the hell would you eat at a Braum's in Purcell? WTF?! Were you mad at yourself or something?

As a side note, I really enjoy that I have to use word verification to comment on my own blog.

At 9:05 AM, Blogger masman21 said...

First, let me say good to see you posting again. Having almost married a Purcell English teacher and having to attend many unnecessary Purcell Highschool events, Purcell really is as country as it sounds. Well, I forgot the other thing I was going to say. But I'm sure it was funny so just laugh and I'll make it up later.

At 9:24 AM, Blogger Jim B said...

Yeah, I remember you showing me her grade book and it looking like 75 percent of the students were undiagnosed mentally handicapped kids. The only class that had respectable grades was the honors class.


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