I am the plaything of the gods…

We haven’t been posting much over here at Left of the Mississippi lately, as you no doubt have noticed. Between midterm grading and The Cold That Could Only Be Quelled By Hideously Expensive Antibiotics,* posting has been very low on my list. On the back of the page, in fact.

Friday morning, however, I was feeling markedly better. As I trolled through the webpages that I visit every morning over my protein shake and diet Pepsi, I thought, I need to post something on my blog. Hmmm. Only thing is, nothing funny or weird or painful has happened to me lately.

When, oh when, will I learn not to challenge fate?

Friday was a great day at work.** So much so that when my 2 p.m. class rolled around, I decided at the last minute to take the students to the library so they could do research for their current assignment and I could circulate among them, all guiding and knowledgeable. A change of venue, useful time away from the ordinary classroom, next best thing to holding class outside on a sunny day — oh, what a fabulous teacher I am, indeed.

Now, the university library is a lovely thing to behold. The main section was built only a few years ago with $$ from, I believe, a huge bequest. It’s all solid, polished wood shelf units and marble and tasteful sofa groupings and elegant lighting. The study tables are especially gorgeous: intricate patterns of inlaid hard woods under special non-glare glass panes. I have NEVER been in an institutional library so non-institutional.

So into this elegance descend my student and I.*** They dispose themselves and their laptop computers around two of the inlaid tables, some yards apart, and proceed to work on their thesis statements, look for sources, and, in one annoying instance, play computer solitaire. Because it’s late Friday afternoon, the only other people in the library are a couple of student workers and one reference librarian, all clustered behind the front desk. Having the library practically to ourselves, my students and I became relaxed and comfortable. Too comfortable…

A young woman called me over to ask a question about her proposed thesis statement. She was sitting at a study table with four other students. Finding that her question required some lengthy explanation, I did exactly what I do in our regular classroom, where the students also sit at long tables: I hitched my fat ass onto the table and settled in for the duration, at which point the 3/8 inch thick sheet of glass that protects the expensive and beautiful inlaid wood tabletop broke in to five pieces with a loud CRACK.

A loud crack — so loud that, while the librarians at the front desk didn’t hear it, two of my students sitting across the room came loping over to see what happened. So not only did I break a sheet of glass (in the very elegant library of a school at which I’ve been working for a mere 2 months) by sitting on it, all of my students witnessed the break.

Mortified is too weak a word to describe my feelings, but I wasn’t in any shape to hunt up one of the library’s thesauri.

Because my students are there, I have to be all calm and collected rather than cringing and weepy, which was certainly what I wanted to do. I had to go to the front desk and confess my fat-assed sin to the reference librarian, who was, of course, surrounded by student workers. She gave me the kind of bug-in-my-soup look that is the mainstay of school librarians and said I’d better go tell the library director. He was across the library in his office, so I got make the long walk under the eyes of my still-chuckling students. His office door was closed and I had to knock. I felt about 9 years old.

At his invitation, I entered the also-elegant and book-lined office, shut the door, and took a chair. And then, like a loaded gun in the sticky grip of a toddler, my humor-as-defense-mechanism kicked in and, in response to his "what can I do for you," I said, "Bless me father, for I have sinned." I said this to a man I’ve met twice, in the upright Midwest, in a Presbyterian-founded university, attended by a huge number of Catholic students. My quip earned a very small, very polite smile.

Switching quickly to "just the facts" mode,**** I told him I’d sat on a study table and broken the glass. Oh, he said, and after a pause, is the break at a corner, or a bit along the side?

No, you don’t understand, I said. I sat on the table, sat far enough back to swing my feet, and the glass is in five pieces. I’ve been meaning to diet, I added in the silence that followed my confession. That earned me a real smile.

Probably in response to my obvious embarrassment and because he is really a VERY nice man, the librarian assured me that these things happen. He even claimed that the wooden tables warp in the summer humidity, no doubt the closest he could come to excusing my fat ass without referring to my butt himself. He did tell me that the panes of glare-reducing glass cost $150 and up and mention that we should get maintenance in to remove the broken glass IF they were still there so late in the day, but we can assume his patience was rightly tried. Overall, I felt absolved, and I didn’t even have to say a Hail Mary or recite the Dewey Decimal system — what passes for penance in a school library?

One more thing….this is a very small school. While only one class-worth of students witnessed my fat-assed vandalism of library property, at least three of them room with students in my other classes. Heck, the library director’s daughter is in one of my classes. Thus, although the director said he’d "keep your name out of it" when reporting the breakage and ordering new glass, it’s going to make the rounds.

Especially because I can’t keep such a funny, weird, and painful story to myself.

*Ten dollars a pill. And they don’t even make you feel funky, unless you count the diarrhea….

**A great day may be defined as one in which I get lots of grading done and the school cafeteria serves tater tots. Low expectations yield a plethora of great days.

***Literally. The entire library is underground.

****It WAS Friday, after all.


3 responses »

  1. Oh gosh. No one deserves that. Oh, the hubris from being tall enough to shift onto a table like that. Sincerely, Your Short Friend Who Must Sign Grocery Receipts on Tables Nose-High.

  2. Oh my! That is quite a saga. I wish I had some comforting words for you.

    My mom used to teach child psych and development at a small girl’s college in NH. One day, she was driving with some students into the village, coming down a long slope into town, past elementary school. Of course, this kind of set-up is perfect for a speed trap. My mom (normally a very careful driver) got pulled over doing 60 in a school zone with a few of her Child Development students in the car. Hard to live that one down.

  3. Oh, poor Inez! That does sound dreadful.

    Have I told you about the time I was accepting an award, and when I went up on stage the zipper of my skirt split, and my skirt almost fell off on stage? In front of several hundred people at a conference? So I had to clamp one hand behind my back to hold the skirt on, clutch the award with the other, and stand with my back to the ballroom wall while I sidled back to my table? Which was all the way at the back of the room? And when I finally got there the other people at my table were laughing so hard they couldn’t straighten up, except that Suzy McKee Charnas finally stopped giggling long enough to fish a safety pin out of her bag, pin the skirt closed for me, and then fuss with the zipper until she got it fixed?

    There: did that make you feel any better?

    Suzy McKee Charnas is a goddess. But we already knew that, just from reading THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY.


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