Coping with Incompetent Authority

IOWA CITY, IA - FEBRUARY 01:  A University of ...

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As a freshman at University of Illinois, I took a boring required course. The instructor was an insufferable moron, a graduate liberal arts student.

Early in the semester there was a big snow storm. It was an early morning class, and I arrived a few minutes late, briefly interrupting the class by my entrance as I made my way to my seat, still covered with snow and slush—an admittedly impertinent thing to do, regardless of the circumstances. I’ve always been intolerant of tardiness myself.

The instructor waited for me to get settled, then asked in a trembling voice reminiscent of Paul Linde: “Difficult journey, Mr. Newton?”

My response: “Not nearly as tedious as the destination, Mr. Prahlhans.” He never dared to question me again.

As a graduate student I had an extremely beautiful and conservative (even for those days) graduate assistant instructor named Ms. Bello for my second semester Italian class who was at least as concerned about student attendance as she was about teaching Italian. She was in truth quite a nice lady, and I liked her, but I grew weary of her inquiring about absences because my attitude at the time had become that class was somewhere I went when I had nothing more important to do. In those days, I was a habitual class cutter, as my time and energy became more and more consumed by what I hoped would become my life work, and therefore gave less attention to academics. (I still managed to get excellent grades.)

One day after I had cut class the time before, she asked me, as was her routine, where I had been. I responded with feigned embarrassment that I had been in jail because because a party at my apartment had gotten out of hand. (Yes, it was a boldfaced lie, one calculated to intimidate. I’ve never been in jail for any reason.) Poor Ms. Bello was simply unprepared to respond to such an excuse. It was the last time she ever questioned anyone in the class about attendance.

Another time Ms. Bello stuck her foot in her mouth occurred when just before class one day she asked a fellow music student—an organ major: “How’s your organ?” Before she even realized what she’d said, he responded: “Hangin’ right in there.” Ms. Bello nearly had to cancel class she was so embarrassed.

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About Lynn

o Writer and Editor o Computer Technologist o Composer o Ultrarunner
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