It’s 9 a.m. Friday. British Literature with Professor Monica Potkay just started, and the class is, for the most part, in attendance. Ten minutes later the discussion turns to the second conceit or Act IV. At this point you are one of two people.
The first person is the individual taking mostly legible notes and trying to crack the next metaphor. This person showed up on time and is on his way to a full set of chicken-scratch notes.
The second person is struggling to yank Tyler Hall’s front door off its hinges, bumbling and stumbling into the lecture hall to complete silence and a reproachful look from the podium. This person woke up just a few minutes ago.
An awkward silence ensues before Potkay launches back into the metaphor. The first person turns his attention back to his notes. The second looks around the room as if his presence is something to be applauded, a Herculean act.
What’s wrong with this? Apathy, for starters, but then so much more than any single column can address. We’ll focus on the big three problems.
The first problem, obviously, is Hercules. Hercules wakes up five minutes after class begins, puts on his clothes in 36 seconds, and breaks the Botetourt-to-Tyler school record — five minutes, 23 seconds. As he finally reaches the winner’s circle, he stops to catch his breath and observes the class furiously taking notes. Man, what a champion. He deserves a round of applause.
Clap. Really well done, Hercules. Clap. I really respect the way you discard your obligation to show up on time. I admire how you get an early morning sprint workout out of the tens of thousands of dollars you throw at the College of William and Mary. And the way you completely disrupt class, well, what can I say?
My favorite thing about you: The way you trip through that door with a half-smile on your face, as if you’ve achieved something. I love the flushed red spreading across your cheeks as you half-expect the guy behind you to give you a shoulder massage. Clap.
The second problem is the person who witnesses Hercules’s triumphant entrance, yet turns his head the other way and keeps taking notes.
What’s wrong with this person? At least he showed up to class on time.
That’s true, but he’s the reason Hercules expects a gold medal. This person gives Hercules the justification he so craves. This person excuses Hercules, as if it’s OK that Hercules is late for the fifteenth time this semester because it’s now commonplace — he already showed up late 14 other times. To this person, I say — stop playing the dumb hero worshipper.
Finally, the third problem: the professor. This is in no way directed at Potkay, whose glances of reproach stab right into the soul. It’s those professors who simply act as if the rude interruption is simply a product of the environment. It’s not.
Our job is to show up on time and do our level best to learn. Your job is to effectively teach and control a classroom of college students. Keep us committed; allowing Hercules to come in late, again, just raises him above the rest of us mere mortal, on-time students.
How do we fix Hercules?
For one, as stated above, don’t excuse him. He doesn’t deserve it. Give attention to those who actually do their job. Secondly, I realize this isn’t high school and attendance isn’t monitored as closely, but the coming-in-ten-minutes-late-I’m-awesome mentality has to stop. There needs to be a way professors can entice students to be on time, whether through grading policies or some other means.
Apathy has taken root, and it’s despicable. Apathy at this school is like a bad virus — it will spread. Let’s stop it now and save everyone a lot of annoyance.
Oh, and professor, sorry for being late last week. I was busy. Also, I’ll be late Friday. Sorry?