Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"Schadenfrau Cracks Open The Office Door..."

A student found an office and came to office hours to discuss academics? How? Why? In my building, the directory lists my office as still occupied by the garrulous Dr. Verklempt. It’s a grand ploy and one I’ve brought to the attention of no one during my employ here. In class, I tell my students they can locate my office by the fragrant trail of gin, patchouli and the pong of my unshaven feminist armpits. A few actually make it past Cerberus, traverse the river Styx and manage to find the door with Dr. Schadenfrau on the plate.

Generally, my weary neo-Homers slump into the uncomfortable guest chair and moan about the journey to office hours. I remind them Charon’s on furlough and has to cover Acheron every Tuesday for the rest of the semester. Tough times all round…tough times. I offer a drink of crisp bottled river water secretly hoping the nine years curse might apply to mortals. Alas, no…and there’s a confession coming during these office hours; I’m the patchouli anointed, vermouth-abstaining, cat-fur covered high cleric poised for the traveler to tell me his gins…er, sorry, sins. I meant sins.

I’ve never known what to do during these close encounters. This isn’t Dr. Phil and I’ve nary a hackneyed-hick phrase at the ready. I suppose I could tell them how many “Hail Harry’s” they need to say. Harry, by the way, is our institution’s regent and a hearty “Hail You, Harry” is good for the soul especially on mandatory furlough days.

Over time, I’ve learned office hours have two purposes: health crises and meaning of life crises. I get health…always health. Does my pallor and Jabba the Hut physique infer I’m that much closer to the great beyond? I don’t know. Why anyone would discuss their maladies with a middle-aged woman who’s covered in cat hair and spouts post-modern critical theory remains a mystery to me. Yet, they come. They sit. They talk. While their mouths move up and down, I try to, as my therapist suggested, think pleasant thoughts…like being abducted by aliens and anally probed with a Roto-Rooter.

The confessions I hear relate to medical conditions strung together like a double helix. No M.D. ever gets this litany, I’m sure. But, once you’ve got the honorific “Dr.” because you’ve got a Ph.D., you’re ripe for the unvarnished details to spew forth. You’re in for it when the student starts to talk about how they’ve been “feeling” as of late. It goes something like this:

I just wanted to let you know I’m taking a number of drugs to help me with my [add 3 items from List A]. They make it difficult for me to [add 2 to 5 List B items]. I just can’t [add up to 6 items from List C], but I really want to get an A in your course.
  • List A: ADHD, OCD, anxieties, incontinence, consumption, narcolepsy, lactose intolerance, bone density, cholesterol, erectile dysfunction, flatulence, insomnia, thyroidism, high blood pressure, tinnitus, lockjaw, constipation, dowager’s hump, blurred vision, boils, delusions of grandeur.

  • List B: focus, stay awake, see, sit still, urinate, breathe, hear, fart, concentrate, read, drool, type, ejaculate, think, eat, walk, digest.

  • List C: stay awake in your class, read the texts, make sense of what you say in lectures, work with others in the class, come to class, write notes, speak, function as if I were alive.

So, you’re suffering from drug side effects related to the treatment of your flatulent cholesterol boils. The drugs make it difficult for you to focus, walk, and ejaculate; therefore, you can’t read the textbook or come to class, but you’d really like an A? Oh…and you have no documentation because you’re from a culture where the healers are still following the oral traditions? And, you’d like me to whip out my stone tablet and chisel, and scribe forth an entirely new set of course regulations for persons with undocumented flatulent cholesterol boils?

Well, I'll get right on that. NOT!!! Thanks for stopping by and don’t let the three-headed dog nip you in the arse on your way out! Ta-tah…..[furtive rummaging in desk drawers…bourbon, where’s that flask of bourbon?]