What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

There’s a girl in my language class who scares me

My foreign language teacher is a linguistic anomaly. She was born and raised in the United States, is a huge Red Sox fan and has all the outward physical trappings of an American. That is, she’s overweight. She covers for these deficiencies by using a limited set of carefully coached European facial expressions. When she is confused, she does the Parisian shrug and happiness is expressed with a gesture more common in Bordeaux than the Bronx.

Class is organized in an unorthodox fashion. Instead of sitting in neat rows and columns like so many numbers on a mathematician’s page, all the seats are scattered to the outskirts of the room, the way they would if Nancy Pelosi suddenly appeared in the center. This arrangement, teacher tells her students, allows for better “linguistic interaction,” an unnecessarily large phrase that means “shooting the breeze.” And believe me when I say we students shoot the breeze.

Aside from simply being unorthodox, the arrangement of seats forces me to look at the students sitting across from where I’m sitting. Sometimes this fact allows me to share in a joke and otherwise interact with my fellow classmates or converse with them on a more intimate level, which is fine. Other times, like today, seat placement is a catalyst for horror.

Annie is a freshman from the wrong side of Massachusetts. I know, is there a right side? She is, I am sure, a perfectly pleasant girl in person, but she has a habit which borders on the neurotic and has gone well beyond the distracting.

Many students will ”zone out” during a professor’s lecturious droning and allow their minds to wander to a happier place. This mental voyage is expressed physically with a slanted head, slack jaw and wide open eyes that look but don’t focus. At any point after the first five minutes of a lecture, a speaker can expect to see as much as 60% of her audience performing this “zone out” escape.

Annie zones out. A lot. Except that when she allows her mind to wander, her face gets the most serious and intense expression as if she’s desperate in a persuasive plea. Her eyes remain unfocused, but the small muscles around them tighten so that she is almost squinting. Her lips are slightly parted in a way that is more Spears than Loren. She looks as if she is heavily focused on letting her mind wander.

When most students zone out, the spectacle isn’t so absorbing that I can’t look away. But when Annie zones out, it’s like watching art happen. The face is letting you in on what’s happening in the mind and the viewer is swept along in the drama of the zoning. The whole thing is, quite frankly, very scary.

Maybe Annie needs to take zoning out lessons or maybe I need to learn to pay more attention in class, but regardless, the faithful FCN few can take a pointer from this pour soul: If you’re going to zone, zone! For goodness sakes, zone! Please!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awarded best post in a long time.

Christopher Yerziklewski said...

Seconded. That was brilliant.

Guitarbob said...

hm, sounds like me.....

guitarbob said...

man, i feel dumb now that i just got that seven hours later... but it still sounds like me...

A City in Germany said...

Sounds like me, too. Do that one regularly.