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?