It figures that after an objectively interesting weekend of almost meeting a porn star (Mia Khalifa) in a movie theater and watching a lesbian romance play with chili, supernatural facial hair, and a bedsheet-draped-over-actress-wearing-upside-down-salad-bowl ghost as its major plot points, I’d choose to write about something entirely unrelated.
This choice makes perfect sense (to me) in the context of my favorite coping mechanism. Dramatizing my overwhelmingly mundane life has become so intrinsic to my identity that I no longer know who I am without it. And much like how I never look up the risks of sitting in front of my laptop for more than five hours at a time so I can pretend I don’t know my sedentary lifestyle is hastening me toward my inexorable death, I’d rather continue as I am and forever avoid finding out.
Which means, of course, that when I encounter situations that are in and of themselves strange, that overshoot my excitement threshold, I’m often at a loss for how to make them even stranger.
My propensity to make things weird and inability to handle them when they’re already bizarre is probably why, after over a semester of college, I still can’t make sense of this one professor.
This One Professor is the stereotypical eccentric that you read about in those “X Professors You’ll Meet in College” listicles.
Defining moments, some contributed by classmates who have better recall than I do
- He occasionally walks around barefoot.
- He makes us read excerpts in accents and offers parenthetical remarks (like “now read it like you’re about to burst into tears.”)
- He pretends he’s never heard of famous authors. (“F. Scott Fitzgerald.” “Who?”)
- He says things in one-on-one conversations that still confuse me, days later.
- He makes high schoolers visiting our program spell out words in French or “the opposite of proletariat.”
- He followed a classmate into the bathroom, where they sustained conversation while in adjacent stalls.
- He concluded one of our first lectures, on Leda and the Swan, with a Google Image Search. (If you haven’t read that, it’s a Greek myth in which Zeus turns into a swan and rapes a woman. Essentially, glorified swan porn.)
- He’s an enigma. No one ever knows whether he’s serious or not because he delivers everything in deadpan.
This semester, he had us sign up for essay slots for our first two papers of the semester. Thus, each of us turns in our work on a different day, and some of us, depending on the topic, can opt to write a biographical paper and presentation in lieu of one paper. Because I’d rather write fifteen essays—instead of sixteen—this semester, I chose to present on Albert Camus, the French literary giant who championed Absurdism and wrote The Stranger.
We’d never substituted essays for presentations before, so I emailed him on Monday to clarify instructions.
Hi Dr. This One Professor,
I’ve chosen the biographical presentation option for Camus! Would my presentation (I’m thinking a PPT) essentially be a summary of what I write for my bio paper? If not, how do you suggest I differentiate the two?
Tuesday morning, he emailed back.
My first critique is the single exclamation point after the first sentence. I would have gone with at least two!!!
After reading the rest of the email, I sat back in my chair—I’m always sitting. You know me—and attempted to process what had just happened. I screenshotted the email and sent it in our class’s GroupMe (a group chat app,) captioned “roasted.”
Last night, I shared my finished product with This One Professor via Google Slides and he emailed me back with suggestions to visit the campus library’s shelves on Camus for the visuals. He also voiced his surprise that I hadn’t snuck a quote we mentioned on Friday, “On ne labourait ici que pour récolter des cailloux” into the presentation. He sent another email four minutes later that just said “How embarrassing!”
I had no idea what he meant by that, but I was familiar with the feeling. So I wrote back.
Hi Dr. This One Professor,
I’m not sure what you were referring to when you said “How embarrassing!” (perhaps my negligence in not mentioning Camus’ quote?), but my first critique is the single exclamation point after the first sentence, as I would have gone with at least two!!!
I finished the rest of the email, sent it, and updated the class’s GroupMe with another screenshot, captioned “please attend my memorial service tomorrow.”
About an hour ago, finally, he wrote back.
Embarrassing that I had forgotten to put “pour” in the quote—as in “que pour récolter.” Minus 5.
My presentation is tomorrow. Send love, because this may be the last you ever hear from me again.
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