life as understood

by jeff carr, master of the arts, -------------------------------------------------------------------------- presumably from a couch

I know, I know, this looks long, but listen to this. Two things: first of all, I may have gotten one of my professors fired. Yow. Now don't worry, nothing terrible happened.

At first, I was a little wary about writing this down, because I didn't want to fall under the criticism of students, or especially Dr. Weed himself (the names have been changed). But then I figured, hey. I haven't done anything wrong. Plus, it probably wasn't actually my fault. Anyway, here we go.

Dr. Weed is technically a member of the History faculty. He just teaches a couple of folklore in film classes each semester, though, and no matter what the specific topic, they're all the same. The classes are quite famous in the slacker underground, though, because they are guaranteed A's for virtually no effort whatsoever. Also, you can take them for credit as many times as you want. Pretty much the entire hockey team is there. Anyway, I could go on forever about the ridiculousness of his classes, but I won't here. Suffice it to say, he often came to class under the influence of something or other. Who knows. The entire semester grade for his courses consisted only of an extremely simple, subjective worksheet from each film we watched, and then a quiz from each one as well. We were supposed to do the quizzes in class, using each other as study aids. No one ever got less than a perfect score on anything. In class, he would go on and on just talking about "the good old days, when everybody smoked in class" and "the f---ing dean" and other such subjects. My buddy Matt registered for the class a couple of years ago and by the time the semester began, he forgot that he had done so, so he never attended a single session. He didn't know he was supposed to be in the class at all. He found out when at the end of the semester, he had an A in folklore in film on his transcript. Good job.

So here's where I come in. I took his British Comedies class last semester. It finished out my history minor. I admit, I also took it because I had heard it was easy, but in all honesty, I was hoping to learn something still. I like film. The class, of course, was terrible. Dr. Weed was always a very nice guy, and sometimes funny, but I seriously gained nothing from it. He would just incessantly bash American movies, using terrible ones like "The Mummy 3" to compare to British classics, like Alec Guinness movies. Come on. That doesn't work. Anyway, the class was pointless. Once, halfway through the semester, he printed off maps of Europe so we could "see where England is." At the end of the term, when we did anonymous course evaluations, I was honest, as I always am on evaluations. That's what they're for. The professors tell you to be truthful. Usually, honesty works in their favor, anyhow.

My friend Brian had Dr. Weed for sports films this semester. It turns out, the man was irate about the first and only negative evaluation of the year, and possibly decade. "I guess that student didn't realize it was a comedy class," he said. I did. Anyway, Brian said that the evaluation caught the dean's attention, or something to that effect. Then, in the middle of a class last week, the dean came to class with an officer and pulled out Dr. Weed, who was mad. Then, the dean returned and said that class was adjourned for the day. Nobody knows what that was about, but if there was an officer there, surely something must have happened beyond just a negative evaluation. What we're assuming is that he had some choice words for the dean when she denied his request for sabbatical. He would always talk to us about his plan to sit on the beach in Cape Cod and doing nothing for a year and a half, anyway. He was excited. Sure. He thought he had found a way to somehow earn his tenured salary even less than he does when he's teaching. Then, yesterday, he was gone. The dean announced to the class that Dr. Weed had taken an early retirement for "health reasons," though for a 72-year-old lifetime smoker, he looked just fine. Besides, you don't just quit in the middle of a semester.

So, we're not really sure what happened there. I figure, if anything, getting rid of him will save the university tens of thousands of dollars, and he can spend as much time as he wants at Cape Cod now. He's old, and seemingly well-off, anyway. Maybe his 45 years of tenured teaching earned him enough to pay for that himself, instead of taking money from poor students' pockets. Oh well. Just don't tell the hockey team it was me. They'll pin me up against the boards, and I don't have chest pads or shoulder pads.

So I guess my conscience is doing all right. He dug his own grave, and I certainly didn't do anything drastic enough to warrant a mid-semester forced retirement, anyway. This is just part of my campaign to save the university, which is more directly being accomplished through student government elections that are underway. But that's a story for another day. On a lighter note, I was contacted today by the International Writing Center Association for permission to publish "The Receptionist Monologues" as the feature reading on their website. This is fantastic news. I wrote the monologues with my co-workers and friends Audrey and Ashley a few months ago, and we presented it at the IWCA international conference in Las Vegas (I had to miss Dr. Weed's class). It was a big hit at the conference. Anyway, this is more impressive than my other publications thus far, even if it's only online. It's international, baby. (Canada, probably?) So that's something, I guess. But still, who's the nerd now? Yeah, I know. Obviously still me.


Mark Twain

courtesy of Jeff |

Yesterday at 1:30, an international student came into work to be tutored. That’s my work, not his. Anyway, he came in, and I think he was Korean, judging by name and complexion. The point is, he had written down on the schedule that his instructor for English 1010 was “M. Twain.” Naturally, I was curious. This was the first time I had heard of such a lecturer in our department. For clarification, as I was filling out his consultation form, I asked him directly who his 1010 instructor was. “Mark Twain,” was the accented, yet clear reply. “That seems highly unlikely,” I responded, but he didn’t hear me. Just as well. I didn’t need to make any enemies, and jealousy for this student had already begun to swell within me. This unsuspecting Korean exchange student —probably not even an English major—was being taught basic composition by possibly the greatest and most prolific writer in American history. Not only that, but I imagined that the class itself was a riot.

Still, a sort of nagging feeling existed. I couldn’t help but recall that not only did the father of American literature not actually teach 1010 in our department, but nowhere in the entire university. Also, he had been dead for over 90 years.

Having no alternative, I wrote down “M. Twain” on the consultation form and sent him in with his tutor, but not before glancing back at the large poster of Twain behind my desk. The poster bore the quote “The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning-bug.” That was especially true for foreigners, I surmised. For the rest of the day, I went on a crusade to find out which of the firefly grad students who teach 1010 had been parading around as Sam Clements. Otherwise, this misled student wouldn’t get credit for his tutoring appointment. The impostor was probably Adam, since he has a mustache. Not only did Twain have a mustache, but generally speaking, mustache guys are sneaky.