A student came to discuss his grade on an assignment with me. The TA had in fact been too hard on him and I gave him a couple more points. Mature student, hard-working, courteous, sane, normal, pleasant.
Until somehow the conversation got off track. He was in university, he said, because he had been hounded into it by the police, who had conspired to prevent him from fulfilling his first ambition, which was to be a full-patch member of a motorcycle gang well known in the area and in his home state. He could never get a job or leave the country because of his criminal record for something unspecified but (I gathered) violent. Everywhere he went there were police following him and introducing themselves to him and making sure that he always knew that he was under surveillance, he said. They were making sure he never made anything of his life. So here he was stuck at university because there was nothing else he could do, because they wouldn't let him.
The conversation had begun pleasantly. But as his story went on – and on – I became more and more uneasy. I am a sedentary middle-aged female person. I am not a large person. He was large, huge, and mostly muscle, and apparently had a taste for violence, and he was between me and the door. Increasingly, as the conversation went on, I didn't want him to be. I wanted him to be on the other side of that door, and I wanted to lock it.
He wasn't saying anything threatening; he was just telling me his life story and I think looking for sympathy, but his life story involved an awful lot of criminal contacts, and a criminal record, and a strong sense of grievance against anyone in a position of authority. I am in a position of authority.
His attitude, and life experience, were alien to anything that has ever happened to me, and I hadn't the faintest idea how to respond. I couldn't help but suspect that the police have a lot more to do with their time than to spend their manpower resources constantly watching him wherever he went, unless of course they think he's genuinely dangerous, which did not make me feel any better. Choosing between a description of "unbalanced" and "actively dangerous" for the huge student between me and the door did not present me with any feel-good options.
Finally he left. And I locked the door. He gave me no reason to think he was ill-disposed to me, but my spider alarm was on full alert.
Has anyone else had an experience with the student that they found inexplicably scary? What do you do?