Know Your Foe #9: The Writing On The Desk

I still have all of my notebooks from my college and university years. I am an emotional pack-rat and I have a hard time throwing things like that away. It was a number of years since I took the time to look at them, though. Recently, I had a reason to dig them up and look through them and I saw the dreaded page. The page I had done my best to forget about in the years since then. Sweet forgetfulness will never fully come, though. Have you ever done something so bad you want to curl up into a little ball and die? Only, you wanted to do it in a way where no one would even know you existed? I have, and I have the evidence in my book. I suppose I might even be able to take a picture of it to prove it, though you should feel lucky if I’m willing to share my hen-scratch with you. I went to programming school for the very purpose of being able to hand in my programs printed out very neatly without any requirement of handwriting. Why would I take programming when I’m such a literary giant? My writing is really that bad, folks. It makes poor children in other countries weep. I hear their cries at night when I try to sleep.

He would latch on to both sides and talk for almost 3 hours straight.

He would latch on to both sides and talk for almost 3 hours straight.

This is the story, though, of one Morgan Tamplin, an anthropology teacher who I had the good luck to study under. I remember one day, driving to the university with my dad from a visit to my parents’ place, mentioning to my dad that I was studying under Tamplin. He informed me that he had also studied under him and that I should be very careful, as when he was his student and he was showing off native arrowheads to the class, my dad said, “If you think those are good you should see my driveway, I’ve got a thousand of ’em!” For some reason, Tamplin was in no way impressed by this. Would he remember, though? It had been years since then. It wasn’t even that big a deal in the first place, was it? Just a harmless joke at his expense. I was a little nervous but I figured that Morgan himself wouldn’t hold something that silly against me. I had no idea what I was in store for.

The class he was teaching that I studied was supposed to be an anthropological study of Cyberspace, but after (I’m not even remotely kidding) TWO MONTHS of explaining the difference between analogue and digital it became apparent that the class was about nothing else. Let me sum up those months in one simple explanation. When your clock has arms and they spin around the clock accordingly, pointing at different numbers to indicate what time it is, that’s analogue, and when your clock has digits on it that appear and tell you what time it is that’s digital. How did I just do that in one sentence when it took Tamplin literal months to explain? I remember going out for smokes with people from my class and laughing until I was crying at the fact that he thought anyone in the class didn’t know the difference between the two. Halfway through the year he brought in a friend of his to show us some of the electronic art that he’d made. I don’t remember all of the pieces clearly, but I do remember he made an arm-wrestling machine with a modem on it that could call another arm-wrestling machine and the force applied to one arm would be outputted in the opposite direction on the other arm. Kind of a cool idea, I guess. When he mentioned he offered one to the then president of the United States and the then president of Russia so they could work out their aggressions without nuking each other. He was alarmed that neither office took him up on it. I’m going to pause for a moment here so we can all let that sink in.

These are the notes I have from that day.

These are the notes I have from that day.

The class, the two hour and fifty minute class which every other professor would end an hour early, because let’s face it: Nobody is paying attention after that. It was an assault on the mind. He would latch both hands to the side of the podium at the front of the class and literally not move any part of his body but his right arm, for emphasis when he was establishing yet another fascinating pair of things that were represented both analogue and digital, and his head. People snored in class. Loudly. They still don’t even come close to knowing my personal shame, though. I began to notice the graffiti on the desks and I was fascinated by it. Some of it was actually very clever and there were quotes that made me want to look them up and read more of the source. I looked forward to sitting in a new area each class so I could catch the latest. Even times where I was forced to sit somewhere I’d been before there was something new to read. I began to copy down the different things that I’d read, the ones that struck a real chord with me, so I could remember them later.

This was all well and good, except for the fact that I would leave my notebook open on the desk when I went outside for a smoke. On the fateful day in question, I remember it was raining and I smoked near the door, under the cover of the small shelter that was provided there. The weather was bad so a second smoke seemed out of the question, and I went back inside. For the first time, ever, professor Tamplin was not at the podium. People were all writing things in their books, something I had obviously missed and would have to ask a classmate about, but then I noticed where he was standing. He was standing right beside my chair, looking at my book and flipping through the pages. This is a pretty huge violation of my rights, in my opinion, as my personal notebook is not necessarily meant for public consumption. I didn’t really think that I had to hide it when I went out for a butt. In retrospect, though, I really fucking should have. The page my book was open to when I went out for a smoke had the following quote written on it from one of the desks.

I'm still going to be marked fairly, right?

I’m still going to be marked fairly, right?

Please understand, I thought it was hilarious that someone wrote that on the desk. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. If you can’t read my terrible writing, the quote was, “Tamplin, you fucking burnout”. I thought it was hilariously true, so I copied it down. The real snag is that he didn’t know that I used to just copy things down that people had written. So far as he knew, I was the one who wrote it on the desk after enjoying it so much in my book. As far as he knew, I was the one writing on all the desks. And I obviously thought he was a fucking burnout. I decided the weather was actually pretty charming, given the indoor conditions, and went back out for another smoke. A couple of classmates who knew me followed me this time, having seen the look on my face, and they were quite pleased to have something interesting to hear about. They all died laughing, which actually made the whole thing a little easier to bear. If you ever do something that gets you into serious trouble then look no further than your peers for the emotional support you need to see you through the situation. We all went back in together and one person, not me, gathered all of our books and brought them to the rest of us, in the hopes of creating a fog around who it was.

It did little good. He knew whose book it was. He looked at me like I was the reason life wasn’t fair. If looks could kill the universe would have exploded when he caught a glance of me. I’ll bet he couldn’t remember why my name bothered him at first. I bet it was like an itch that he could never scratch. Something that bothered him endlessly. Why did he have a natural disposition towards not liking me? Then he saw my notebook, and I’m certain in that moment he remembered my dad, telling him about his driveway full of arrowheads, and he was finally able to reach, and to scratch to satisfaction, that itch. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to do well in a class that focuses on digital/analogue when the professor hates not only you, but also your father and likely the rest of your family just on principle. I got a B when I really should have walked out of that class with an A+. I wonder who the person was who wrote the quote originally and what they’re doing now. I like to think that it’s great things. I hope they’re calling a burnout like they see it. I just hope I never have to take the heat for their work again.

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