Betty loves her students.
Well, OK, not all of them.
There are those who come to Betty's class, not seeking essential information about comma splices and fragments, but come merely bent on making Betty's life miserable by talking incessantly to their friends. Normally, Betty can squash this behavior like an old grape, but there was one student, many years ago whose talking nearly drove me crazy.
You see, it wasn't talking talking--the kind you can hear, distinguish words, and then repeat back to the student thereby letting him KNOW your hearing is akin to a bat's echolocation. I would be up there in front of class, giving essential information on writing well--the key that will unlock all the blessings of our modern society--and I would hear it: the low, steady, continuous buzzing of verbiage from his area. His lips barely moved and when I looked his way the buzzing stopped momentarily and then started again when I resumed my lecture.
I spoke to him over and over again about his behavior, putting on my best teacher look and tone. Bored and passive, he stared at me, obviously perturbed that I had come back to interrupt his important conversations. I continued to remind him to be quiet. He continued to ignore me. I bought power suits and wore them, in ascending austerity throughout the semester.
However, nothing stopped this verbal incontinence on his part--the slow steady leaking of whatever words he had stored up in his bladder-like cheeks. Akin to a Poe story, it went on and on, slowly driving me out of my mind. Near the end of the semester, he began to deny that he was doing it. Oh, but he was! I heard it, heard it, heard it, the low rumble, the burbling burning my ears. One day I heard it--the saw-like sound of his whispered buzzing. It reached my ears and rang there with its undertone of insubordination. I spun around in class to have my usual stare down with him, but he was not there! I looked around; he was gone. His friends said he had gone to the restroom. It was true, he was not physically in the room, but the sound remained, remained staining the very fabric of the air like bloodstains on the collar of the bridal gown of the doomed.
He made it through the semester--or I should say I made it through the semester and blessed each and every footstep he took as he exited the classroom for the final time.
(Change of mental music here: Go from loud, dramatic organ music to light Muzak, say, for instance, "The Girl from Impanema.")
NINE YEARS LATER:
HOB, my friend K, and I are all at the boxy, modern electronic store where all the employees dress like Mormon missionaries and practically embrace you as you enter the store. Friend K is getting her computer fixed and we have about an hour to kill in the store. We play with the massage chairs, and we go flip all the dials on all the cameras and camcorders. We cruise the aisles, each bearing a framed picture of an employee of the store, smiling, with the caption "This aisle proudly maintained by:" followed by the name of the employee.
In an attempt to continue to entertain ourselves, K and I head to the kitchen appliances aisle to make fun of the hot dog makers and green plastic margarita machines. Passing by one of the 97 cash registers, I stopped short. There he was! My nemesis! The low-talking pest from my class oh so long ago. He was dressed in the cult-like garb of the corporation.
Now, I am not a vengeful person. Well, not unless my blood sugar is low or you have a history of sitting in my class talking without end to your maladjusted friend behind you. He had made my workplace environment uncomfortable for me. He had raised my hostility levels. I have sat through enough employee training videos to know that this is considered some kind of harassment and since I don't see another avenue of recourse, I am thinking I have some sort of right to make his workplace environment a tad bit uncomfortable for him.
I pull K aside and tell her the story. Then I tell her my plan. I am going to find his aisle--the one proudly maintained by this ne'er-do-well and I am going to mess with it. K is a little appalled, but, good friend she is, agrees to at least help me find his aisle.
We find HOB who is a good person and wants nothing to do with this plan. He even says, "This is wrong on so many levels." He tries to convince me not to carry out my evil plan but just seeing that face--the face of the low-talking agent of evil-- again has ignited in me a vengeance that is running rampant through my veins.
We leave HOB behind as we look through the aisles, searching for The Face. We look computer component aisles, but none of the faces match up. We search the radio and TV aisles and I am secretly hoping he is not in charge of those--too heavy, too many cords; we'd have to really work hard switching them all around and the effect would be somewhat minimal. I'm not afraid of the work, but I want the payout to be magnificent. We search the computer game aisles--still no match, but I view with delight all the boxes, now lined up in neat displays, alphabetically arranged. Then, I grab K's arm and say with renewed fervor, "Let's check the CD and DVD aisles!"
Now, by this time, K is starting to lose interest, but my imagination is on the Tilt-a-Whirl at the Vengeance Carnival. All those hundreds and hundreds of titles, alphabetically arranged, all those thin little boxes, all the categories. Just think: "I Love Lucy" ends up in Horror. "Nightmare on Elm Street" ends up next to "Sesame Street." The boxes, all turned upside down, sideways, out of alphabetical order. I run to the aisle and scan for The Face. I whisper to the Gods of All that is Wrong but Feels so Right, "Just give me this..."
Alas. This aisle is NOT proudly maintained by my sworn foe, but instead by a sad-looking nymph.*
By this time HOB has caught up with us and as he gently pries my fingers off the shelf I am now gripping as if I am experiencing a Moro reflex, he suggests we go and get a "good meal."
I agree, but vow to return to complete my life's mission.
Well, a meal of a Subway Veggie Max sandwich, Doritos, and a large Diet Pepsi pretty much has magical powers over me. I told K and HOB that had come to my senses and agreed to be a mature adult and forget and forgive.
They both nodded and smiled, proud of my growth as a person and my capacity to embrace life and let go of past hurts.
(I think I can cover more ground in the store next time I go without those two to drag me down, and as far as I could tell, they couldn't even hear that sound, that low, murmured string of sound, I heard, heard, heard throughout the store!)
*(In this case, we go to definition #4)
1. one of a numerous class of lesser deities of mythology, conceived of as beautiful maidens inhabiting the sea, rivers, woods, trees, mountains, meadows, etc., and frequently mentioned as attending a superior deity.
2. a beautiful or graceful young woman.
3. a maiden.
4. the young of an insect that undergoes incomplete metamorphosis.