Thursday, June 6, 2013

If It's Thursday, I Must Be Tingling, From the Cold.

I am in a northern state,
still winter-y,
especially on the early morning walk
from the room at the inn to the campus.

I am being feted and cheesed and wined
by a lovely little college,
and teaching a class and seminar
each day in exchange for their kindness.

I tingle on the first morning.
Across a lovely campus,
toward a lovely room with real chairs
and hot coffee.

And the students, unknown to me,
stroll in.
Many smile.
One woman sits in a chair facing me.

She's scowling as if someone
had run over her cat,
or stolen her hat,
or spied where she shat.

I try to ignore her glare
for the opening remarks,
but it is difficult.
She is the closest person to me.

The minutes drag. I keep losing my place.
I say one thing, and wonder if I'd already said it.
The rest of the room smiles and nods.
I get some momentum.

But then the scowler meets my eyes again.
She freezes me with the same look.

The class can't end soon enough.
I stand up, wobbly,
disoriented, the cold?
The location? These giant trees?

The scowler is walking ahead of me,
she breeches the door,
starts one direction, then turns back.
She hits me with one last glare.

And she's gone.


  1. Hmm. . .I was inclined at first to think that maybe she's just one of those people (like me) who's sometimes more attuned to her internal weather than the human interactions around her, and/or whose thinking/concentrating face sometimes looks unhappier than the internal goings-on actually warrant. But that last backward glare does suggest a more external focus. Perhaps she very much wanted someone else to occupy the position you now hold? Perhaps she hoped to occupy it herself?

    I also very much like this stanza, with its veer from the Seussian to the scatological:

    She's scowling as if someone
    had run over her cat,
    or stolen her hat,
    or spied where she shat.

  2. That was great. Held me to the very end.

  3. So much for the hiatus! Dick, it's terrific. I envy your situation, too. You're a teaching stud out there on the road. That woman, you must update us on future meetings.

    I predict she will throw a drink in your face at some party. You'll never know why!

  4. Could you record a brief video of her on your iPhone?
    I want to see the scowl. FERPA be damned.
    "Ma'am, would you mind if I record your scowl for a few seconds so I can post the vidshizzle on CM?"

  5. Wonderful post about a wretched person, who is apparently unfamiliar with the power of academic karma. Someday she'll be standing in front of an important audience and she'll be suddenly overtaken by a severe attack of projectile vomiting, or she'll make pointed remarks about a colleague while unaware that he is standing just behind her on the escalator, or she'll poke fun at some ethnic or religious group without being aware that she's being taped. (Wait, is she related to Gordon Gee?)

  6. Scowlers. Jesus, how I hate them. As a natural introvert, I have to focus and concentrate on nonverbal cues to determine if I'm communicating effectively. I spend a lot of time and energy during lectures and discussions looking at and decoding people's faces, and the scowler just throws me way the hell off my stride.

    I've tried talking to them afterwards, and sometimes that works, because they -- like me -- don't realize that their facial expression is showing (another thing I have to deliberately concentrate on: keeping my facial expression neutral or pleasant), and are scowling at something else, or just have a naturally foul-looking relaxed expression (again, I sympathize: my relaxed face apparently communicates "I will punch you in the nutsack," to all and sundry when I'm really thinking about Neurohamsterology).

    When it's real bad, I've stopped class and confronted them in front of everyone. "Are you okay? You look really upset." I don't recommend that approach, but it has worked and is quite satisfying.

  7. Wow--the scowler!! When I have confronted (usually gently), it often turns out that they, like me, have a 'concentrating look' that manifests itself in the form of a scowl. But this sounds more malevolent. How odd. I, too, wish we had a clandestine way to photograph such behavior.

    Last quarter I had a scowler who, for the first two weeks, glared at me. When I asked if he was upset, he said he had wanted his GF to be in the class but it was full by the time she tried to register (which was apparently my fault). Note that said GF never once got on the Waitlist or contacted me. I suspect she didn't want to be in the same class as her scowling BF.

  8. I just think of scowlers as people who need Botox.