Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Do YOU Know Where My Podium Is?

My Junior year of college I finally gave up the long fight against the inevitable and declared English as my major; I had no intention of becoming a teacher, and little real hope of being a real writer, so exactly what I planned to do with the major, I had no clue. But it was the one subject where I felt on pretty solid ground, and so there I went. As with most college programs, in the English department there were professors I loved, professors I loathed, and professors who had next to no impact on me whatsoever. One of my favorites was my Intro to Brit Lit II professor, Dr. W. He was a bit eccentric at times, but honestly, what English professor worth talking about isn’t? Plus, it was an entertaining sort of eccentric, and he definitely made class entertaining. So, if he was one of my favorite professors, why was I involved with a prank on him? I blame peer pressure, with the peers being the then-current officers of the English Club – including a fellow Wyandotte High School alumnus -- all of whom were in that Intro to Brit Lit class with me. While I would be an English club officer later, at that point I was merely the only non-elected member to show up to every announced meeting and/or function. So, when one of them came to the others with the idea to pull a prank which had apparently become a tradition with Dr. W., I got pulled in as lookout. The prank? Hiding Dr. W.'s podium.

Now, as pranks go, this one was pretty harmless, and for most professors, probably pretty innocuous. But when Dr. W. lectured, he held on to his podium like it was the only solid piece of ground in a vast plain of quicksand; there was no pacing around the room, just much leaning on the sturdy piece of furniture. Many theories abounded as to why he clutched to the podium so tightly, but in the end all that mattered was that the podium was a bit of a crutch and the English club officers yanked it right out from under him, moving the podium to the next class room over shortly before class started while I kept watch in the hallway. We then hurried back into the room and took up our regular seats, awaiting the promised floorshow.

When Dr. W. entered the room, he noticed the lack of podium pretty much instantly. He stopped in his tracks and pivoted towards the room full of expectant students -- the majority of whom, while not actively participating in the prank, were complicit due to their silence while watching us do the dirty work. No sooner had his gaze fallen on the class then one of these onlookers burst into uncontrollable laughter before turning to the rest of us and exclaiming "I'm sorry, guys, but I'm no good at this sort of stuff!"

So much for playing the "we have no idea what you're talking about" card, huh? But at least her exclamation was addressed to the room in general, so the guiltiest parties weren't singled out. Dr. W., who had endured such podium thievery before, announced that he had been planning on letting our class out early that day, but now he thought he'd just keep us the full time; luckily, we all knew it was an idle threat. Seeing that his threat hadn't shaken any of us, Dr. W. then moved on to roll call, which went something like this:

"Kat -- do you know where my podium is? No? Okay. Delinda."

And so on and so forth, with random class members receiving the probing question. When he reached the name of one absent student, he proclaimed "I bet she took it; she's probably walking around campus with my podium in her pocket as we speak." And so the rest of the class went, with Dr. W.'s lecture being punctuated periodically by references to his missing podium until he finally, as we knew he would, let us go early like he had originally planned. Don't know how long it took him to track down his podium, but by the time we came back for our next class, it was back in place.

When the student wh0 had been absent that day heard the story, she jokingly complained to Dr. W. that she didn't appreciate the fact that he thought she was big enough to fit a podium in her pocket; then, that Thanksgiving, while she was in charge of taking care of her nieces and nephews, she engaged them in an arts and crafts project which she would present to Dr. W. on the last day of class: a miniature "pocket sized" podium made out of popsicle sticks, which he proudly displayed on his office mantelpiece at least until I graduated; for all I know, it could be there still.


Cazzie!!! said...

LOL, this makes me remenisce about my University days, the good old days. I was so excited when I began University and it was such a World of it's own..you know.
Pranks are just part of the culture of attending Uni, then there are the fun times on campus listening to the music students jamm together in the court yard, or the engineering guys having their immature yet funny food fights in the cafeteria...all good.
I love this story of your Uni days, I bet that lecturer enjoyed being part of the Uni culture.

Cazzie!!! said...

*reminisce..sorry about the spelling there..