Friday, April 1, 2011

Ape Real Fools

When that Aprill with his shoures sote
The droght of Marche hath perced to the rote,
Ans bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred in the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open yƫ
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages):
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages...

           --Geoffrey Chaucer The Canturbury Tales: Prologue

In a nutshell?  Spring fever - we all want to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine, even if it means a religious pilgrimage.

I see my students look longingly out the windows of the classroom, wishing they were on a blanket on the quad or on a chaise by the pool.  I've gotten in the habit of closing the blinds so that we can focus on the math.

This time of year always reminds me of one student in particular.  His name was Andrew, a trig student that I had in the first spring after my return to the University.  My classes were back-to-back, and in the ten minutes between them, I would often chat with the students as the first class trickled out and the second class trickled in.  Spring fever having hit and some students having lost all hope of passing, only half the second class attended on a regular basis, and I became friendly with those fifteen or so people. 

So it was in the five minutes before class began that I chatted with them, and Andrew made a grand appearance.  "I made it," he proclaimed, drowning out all other conversation. 

There was good reason for his enthusiasm.  He had three unexcused absences, and since he needed to replace his lowest test grade with his final exam score, he couldn't miss anymore days.  He had to come to class, no matter what.  No matter what indeed.

His white three-button shirt and khaki pants were soaked and streaked with mud and grass stains.  The knee was torn out of one leg of his pants, and I could see that his knuckles, his lower lip, and one of his eyebrows were bleeding.  He swayed and clung to the doorframe to remain upright.

"Andrew, what happened to you?" I asked.

"Whhheeeell."  He blinked slowly, and his breath washed into the room.  He was completely shitfaced.  "See, I went out last night and got really drunk." 

I nodded.  The rest of the class was now fully rapt and chuckling.  "I think you still are."

"Oh, I am."  He nodded.  "I, ah, left the bar, but I never made it home.  I haven't been to sleep yet.  Then it was like, 'Oh fuck you guys!  I gotta go to trig.  I can't miss anymore days.' So I got my buddy's bike and rode here."  He made locomotive motions with fisted hands.  I nodded and fought a smile.  "And like, I wrecked, and I got in a fight with a sprinkler."

"That explains the blood and the mud."

One of the girls in the class who knew him said, "You drunk idiot."  He pointed at her and then kind of staggered into the nearest desk. 

"Andrew, do you have a phone?" I asked.  He nodded.  "Okay.  Can you call someone to come pick you up?"  He nodded.  "Okay.  I think you should because you can be arrested for being drunk in a University facility.  I don't want to have to call the cops on you."

"But, I can't miss any more days," he whined.

"I won't count it against you."

He banged his elbow against the wall as he stood in a tazmanian devil style manner.  "Really?"  He reached into his pocket, smearing blood on its edge, to dig out his phone.  When I nodded, he dialed.  After a few moments, he said, "Dude, come get me at the front."  He staggered out of the classroom.  "No, she's totally cool.  She's not even going to call the cops!"

The class and I stepped out into the hall to watch him go.  He ran down the hall, tripped over his own feet, fell, got up, and resumed running.  Before he made it to the stairs that would take him outside, he shouted, "Woo-hoo," with fist pumps toward the ceiling and then executed a surpsingly agile heel-click.

"Well," I said as I surveyed my remaining students.  "Now that the entertainment portion of the class is over, let's get to work."  I ushered the class back into the room and continued my lecture on sequences and series.

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