Out of Treatment, Interlude (A Snapple Break)

from: darknessatnoon@gmail.com
to: Michael the Therapist
date: sometime in 2001
subject: Appointment

Dear Michael,
Please accept my apologies, but I have to cancel our appointment this coming Thursday. I am swamped with misbehaving students.


I am experiencing no side-effects from the medication.


— darknessatnoon

from: Michael the Therapist@earthlinkorwhatever.com
to: darknessatnoon
date: a day later
subject: re – Appointment

Dear [Real Name],

I am experiencing no side-effects from the medication.

That is for me to judge. Please let me know your soonest availability.

— Michael

Which I did. I responded with a couple of free mornings and afternoons in the coming week. My mind wasn’t really on getting downtown so I could recite a list of the medical effects of speed. I was busy navigating a student revolt. The end of the course was coming up. For my final Friday section I had asked that they turn in a thesis statement and a complete outline for their paper in addition to reading the final assigned novel, Humphrey Clinker. I could tell all my kids were annoyed at having to think about their paper a week sooner than they wanted, however, I knew the professor. She may have seemed all sweetness and light, but that was an act. At heart, she would always be a Hopkins Girl and, therefore, a complete bitch about grading. I warned them that they’d need to get started ASAP. Instead they complained loudly to the professor. When she backed me up, I was ambushed during class.

Angrily waving her Snapple bottle around, my best student commenced traumatizing the class by screaming she had an Honor’s Thesis due in the English Department and another one due in the Sociology Department [editors note – That is a sickening combination of disciplines]. She didn’t “have time” for a “condescending assignment like this.” I had made a strategic error. The lecture had decent enrollment — the class may have been a drag yet it was a requirement –, but the department had assigned an extra course assistant, causing my section to be smaller than usual — 6 people. It had been difficult to sustain discussion without “favoring” this girl. She wasn’t as intelligent as she thought she was, but I had granted her too great a license to blab just so that I could fill the alloted time of discussion. This was blowback. I told her, “look [whatever her name was], I don’t want to have a war with you…” “YOU are trying to have a war with US!” she screamed. Then she stormed to the door, threw her Snapple bottle into the trash can — cracking the bottle in half –, and flew out of the room, crying hysterically. She couldn’t have startled us more if she had pulled out a gun and began executing her peers.

I knew she was going straight to the professor, who would definitely bitch me out for this. There was nothing I could do. I was stuck at the table, teaching Humphrey Clinker to a room full of traumatized students. “Uhm, so guys… What can you tell me about the status of constipation in this novel?”

Of course, I got nothing out of them. They hadn’t read it. The prof’s syllabus was too ambitious, and instead of rushing upstairs to mitigate the damage, I was stuck trying to draw water from a group of stoned out kids. The student went to the professor and the Chair of Undergraduate Studies. The Chair saw me in the hallway an hour later and told me that I had handled the situation perfectly and was in the right. Later the Prof would sit me down, furious that I had spoken to any other faculty about it (as if I’d initiated the conversation) and told me that the student I had upset was ‘from the former Soviet Union.’

— She is allergic to Totalitarian Behavior.
— I can’t believe you’re falling for that load of bull.
— It’s not bull! You should have spoken to her more softly, and shouldn’t have used the ‘war’ metaphor. Also, I can’t believe you spoke to anyone else about this. I’m up for tenure in a couple of years and you just endangered it!
— Oh, please. I didn’t endanger your tenure. That’s passive aggressive. She went to him and he came to me. This has nothing to do with tenure. I can’t believe you’re selling me out to protect the student. It undermines the whole professor, course assistant, student triad. What if I played my I’m from the Third World card, and did my poverty squat to prove it? Would that cancel out her Soviet Union, Second World, guilt trip?

I started to squat, but she waved at me to sit back down on the armchair. All in all, this woman was adept at ‘managing’ me. We weren’t friends. We never would be. I didn’t respect her Good Girl routine, her Neo-Kantianism, or her research methodology, and she felt I was an undisciplined wild card. I tried to reschedule with Michael the Therapist so that I could discuss my Great Annoyance instead of discussing how I could “now sit still,” but he neglected to answer my email. I decided to go to his office.

I biked downtown, rang his session buzzer and sat myself down to read The New Yorker and glare at the contrived stupidity of the articles (“The New Yorker,” I mentally sighed. “Who the hell does he think he is?” I would later convince him to subscribe to GQ, The Atlantic Monthly and Harpers, any of which I prefer to read). He came out of his office and appeared surprised to see me.

— What are you doing here? We don’t have an appointment today.
— I know. You didn’t answer my email, so I decided to drop by.
— You can’t just do that. I have other patients. I am with one right now.
— Well, you shouldn’t have answered the door during your session. You should get a secretary.
— [Livid] If I had a secretary, my rates would be a lot higher. I’ll email you later today to set something up. Please don’t just show up off-schedule like this again. [Calming] I apologize for not responding sooner.
— Good. I always feel that it’s important to respond to email within 24 hours. It’s the professional thing to do.
— We can discuss ‘professionalism’ the next time I see you, if that’s what you would like. Goodbye.

Coming Soon in Out of Treatment, Episode Thrice!

All the stuff darknessatnoon promised last time but was too busy this week to write!


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