School’s Out Forever

Classic moments in academic life: I go to the local YMCA last night to do a workout. The young woman at the check-in desk looks vaguely familiar. I’m pretty sure she’s a former Felician student of mine, but can’t quite remember her name. I check in without mentioning this fact, and she checks me in without mentioning it, either–but we both do double-takes indicating (vague) mutual recognition.

I do my workout, and finally decide that I can’t leave the Y without somehow alluding to the Felician connection we have in common. So I leave by way of the entrance where she was sitting, and it turns out that she’s still there. “You were a student of mine at Felician,” I say by way of re-introduction, “but I’m sorry I don’t remember your name.” She smiles, gives her name, and without irony or self-consciousness says, “Yeah, I was a student at Felician, and I had something with you.”

“Had something” with me? That’s what she got from my Phil 250 Gen Ed course? I’m momentarily crestfallen. What new low is this? Once upon a time, my students at least remembered the slogans and circus-act aspects of the classes they took with me. Now they can’t even remember the names of the classes themselves! O tempora! O mores! 

It belatedly occurs to me that there’s an element of poetic justice here. I can’t remember her name. She can’t remember my class. Doesn’t that make us even?

2 thoughts on “School’s Out Forever

    • LOL. In retrospect, I think the exact phrase she used was “I had you for something,” not “I had something with you.” Either phrase, I suppose, could be interpreted your way, but I think the context made clear that what she meant was, “I took a class of some kind with you, but damned if I can remember a single thing about it, including its name or even the general subject matter involved.” And the only “crush” involved, if any, was the crushing embarrassment of encountering me outside of a school setting….I think the days when I could even conceivably play the lead role in “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” are now about 20 years in the past…Probably more…

      I guess your comment does remind me of my very first day teaching, as a grad student at Notre Dame. It was a 12 person class, 8 women and 4 men, and the subject was Intro Philosophy. Taking great pride in my powers of memory and recall, I took the roll, then put the roster away and tried to get everyone’s name in one take, with mixed results. “Well,” one woman said, “you got the girls’ names right, anyway”–my first faux pas in a career punctuated by them. (“Creepy,” as my current students might put it.) That was September, 1994. I don’t know if it’s an improvement that here I am, almost a quarter of a century later, and I can’t get anyone’s name right.

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