People Watching in Lectures

by Jeff Deck | 11/6/98 6:00am

"zzzzzzzzzzzzzz ..." -- me, frequently

Oftentimes you're in a class, and you get bored. There are many factors that enter into this, the most important being that the human brain has a very short attention span. The ...

What was I writing about? Ah hell, who knows. Anyway, there is an essential and oft-overlooked activity that you could be doing instead of wasting your time listening to the professor in class. What you should do instead is simply take a look around you. There is a sea of humanity -- but several types of students are to be found the world over. Here are these universal types that can be found in a classroom near you. [For most of them I just use the male pronoun, because it's easier. It doesn't mean that I think women are inferior or that they are not prone to these habits as well.]

A. The Sleeper. This person cannot stay awake, usually because the professor has a lulling, dull voice. This person is usually me. It is amusing to watch the struggle that the Sleeper engages in to avoid his fate ... head jerking up and down, eyes fluttering rapidly ... poor bastard.

B. The Clapper. This annoying individual finds it necessary to applaud even the most inane statement. Someone says something amusing or righteous, and the Clapper goes to it. They think they are at some kind of political debate.

C. The Zoner. This person may appear to be taking notes and following the information, but is in reality on auto-pilot. He is in the Barbados, for all we know. This is often me as well. It is an especially dangerous habit in languages, for the professor may call on you unexpectedly and all you will have to say is "Si ... es un amigo mio?"

D. The Statesman. This person feels it necessary to interject a grandiose statement occasionally during discussions. Rather than asking a question, he will talk about life's universal truths, regardless of what the professor is discussing, i.e. "I think society is full of good and also evil." This type is often found in English classes.

E. The Life-Story-teller. This person thinks that we actually care about the intimate details of his life. This type is also found in English classes.

F. The Master of the Obvious. A human speedbump who often begins questions with the phrase "So you mean that ..." (Prof: "For these problems you must use the Limit Test." Student: "So you mean that we can use the Limit Test?") These people are either kissing up or are trying to maintain their participation grade. Or they're stupid.

G. The Cute Chick/Stud. This person is almost always the only thing that keeps you going through a class. He or she is someone that you may look at and admire in your boredom, like when people put up paintings to enliven drab walls. Someday, you must thank this person.

H. The Hacker. This person finds the empty seat closest to you and coughs loudly throughout the whole lecture.

I. The Fidgeter. This person will unwittingly find the best way to irritate you, be it through incessant foot tapping or pencil rapping. This is the type you will want to strangle, along with the Hacker and the Clapper.

J. The Wit. This person fancies himself a comedian and makes remarks to his friend during the entire class. He will be sitting directly behind you. Sometimes this is me.

K. The Big Head. This person will come in two minutes late and sit directly in front of you. He has the biggest cranium in the whole room and will block your view of both the blackboard and the professor.

L. The Latecomer. This person will come in when the lecture is half-over and whisper loudly to you, "What did I miss?"

M. The Idiot. A distant cousin to the Latecomer, this person will lean over to you occasionally and ask, "What did the prof just say?" This occurs especially in upper-level language classes where the discussions are entirely in the foreign language. Again, this type is me as well.

N. The Know-it-all. This is the person that raises his or her hand and gets the correct answer every time. This is never me.

O. The Criticizer. This person will raise his or her hand and actually begin to argue with the professor. This type is the most annoying. I always have the urge to say, "Until you get your Ph.D., shut the hell up!"

On that note, it would be wise to end this catalog of characterizations and also to mention that above all, you must be tolerant. Some people have no idea of how annoying they are; be sure to break it to them gently. Remember, they may not realize you're doing them a favor.

Have fun in lectures -- it's college!

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