After 30-plus years, I sat through a three-hour class last night. It’s an accounting class. – a GRADUATE accounting class, which means in the first night we learned the difference between:
It’s time to wake up and do a radio show. In that environment, amongst microphones and cameras, I feel comfortable. In a classroom at Purdue Northwest on a Monday evening, I did not feel comfortable.
First of all, as I walked out of the house carrying my bookbag, my wife and daughter came running out. Alexis held a paper plate and a magic marker in her hand.
“Wait. I’m gonna write ‘First Day of School’ and you hold it and we’ll take a picture.”
“It’s your first day of school. That’s the cutest thing,” my daughter said.
I was not about to be a prop for a moronic Facebook post, so I hopped in the car and left. I drove to Purdue feeling stupid. It was a perfect summer evening. Sunshine, warmth, beauty, bikeriders, sunshine. It was the same route that I take every morning to the radio station, which, of course, is on the campus of Purdue.
But somehow the route seemed different. Maybe it’s because I usually travel to the stations in the dark, with no one on the road. Last night, on my way to class after 30 years, there were bikeriders, walkers, kids in strollers, people playing catch. I wasn’t alone, enveloped in my solitude driving on the Columbia Avenue bridge over the 80-94 expressway, in the dark.
In the end, I was a little bit nervous. So as I entered class, I did something familiar. I took a seat in the back of the class. You might think, the three or four of you, that I would sit near the front of classes since, after all, I talk for three hours every morning and I announce football games and once in a while I give speeches to large groups of people.
But, if you really think about it, I don’t have all that refined of social skills. As a matter of fact, it’s part of the reason that Alexis and I make such a good pair. She can talk with abandon in a group of people. I feel like crawling inside my backpack and hiding my eyes so no ostriches can see me. You could call it “social anxiety,” and maybe there’s a little to that. I just think that there’s a part of my brain that hasn’t developed fully and as soon as it does I’ll be able to enter a group of people I don’t know without feeling like I’m gonna shit my pants.
I sat in the back of the class eyeing the 15 or so students who had already arrived. I was, of course, the oldest by a good 20 years. This doesn’t bother me. I am now a student because I have weaknesses… and dreams. I accept the mission ahead of me. What I am not accepting of is that the last time I took a three-hour class – 30 years ago in Berkeley – I didn’t have to worry about peeing.
That’s right. The many students are talking quietly to each other, and I realize that I’m 55 years old and that I had a drink of water from the fountain on the way in and that I’ll have to piss in about 20 minutes.
So I go to the washroom and stand at the urinal. I loosen my belt and pull out my you know what, and I start to do my thing.
And, lo and behold, on my right appears an Asian guy in glasses, and on my left a big white guy with no glasses. They start to pee beside me. And they make noise.
As I was starting to pee, you see, there really wasn’t any noise. It sounds more like when you leave the faucet slightly on by mistake and after a while there’s a puddle of water at the bottom of the sink. It’s a slow, steady, weak drip. A trickle almost.
And then when these two young men in their 20s began to pee, it was more like a torrent of water. It was like someone turned on the yellow power washer I have in the garage.
I trickled. They gushed water. They zipped and washed their hands and left. I was still there pushing out whatever water I could from my aging bladder so that I could sit for an hour and a half until the break.
There’s another difference from when I went to school 30 years – everyone washes their hands after going pee. I don’t know if it was just a Berkeley thing, but back in the day amongst the hippie types, it wasn’t fashionable to wash your hands after going to the bathroom. It was another one of those “just let it be” things, I guess, like women not shaving their armpits and guys walking around without any underwear on.
I have carried one very noticeable characteristic from Berkeley, by the way. Perhaps this is getting a little too personal with the three or four of you, but I don’t wear deodorant. I stopped doing it while living in the “cooperative” in Berkeley and have rarely worn it since. As a matter of fact, if I had bought some Ban roll-on in 1985 when I left Berkeley, I’d still have it. Once in a while when I’m going to a wedding or a funeral, I wear some of Alexis’s deodorant.
But other than that, I just put on my clothes and walk out the door. I’m guessing that the three or four of you would feel naked all day if you did that. But I really do believe that if you put all of those chemicals on the same part of your body every day, your pores start to clog up and next thing you know, you really do smell and you have to cover it up.
Anyways, eventually I made it to my seat in the back of the class and the professor – a Mr. or Dr. Pogach – started talking to the class about the solar eclipse that captured everyone’s attention yesterday.
“Anyone ever use a box to look at a solar eclipse?”
He looked at me, of course, in the back of the class – my graying hair, drooping and sad eyes, my wrinkling cheeks – and waited for an answer.
“While I know that nowadays, most people get these fancy glasses to view an eclipse. But back when I was young, you put a pin prick in a box and then put it over your head and looked at the eclipse that way. It worked.”
I, too, did this when I was a kid. As a matter of fact, on the radio show yesterday Billy Baker my childhood chump and I reminisced about when we did this standing in my driveway in the 1970s. That was a long time ago. I have lived a lot of lives between then and now. Yesterday, in room 155 of the Classroom Office Building on the campus of Purdue Northwest, I started another.
Another thing that I noticed was that no one took notes. From the moment the professor started talking, I started writing. The three or four of you could open my notebook right now and there it would be – “Eclipse. Box. Pin prick. Billy Baker.” I was writing for a good half of an hour about “Accounting – gathering information,” when I looked up and noticed that none of the 20 milennials around me was writing anything.
And it stayed that way the whole three hours. Now I don’t know if there’s a notetaking service and there was someone in the class who was recording the class and was gonna take notes and then sell them on the Internet. Maybe that’s what happens, but for the entire three hours, none of the other 20 students took notes. I’m not kidding. It’s the craziest thing.
They all just sat there and watched the professor write on the board and talk, or they clicked through their phones, or looked at their laptops. But I’m not kidding the three or four of you, no one took notes but me. And I took eight pages of them.
That’s about all that I have right now on our new adventure together. I have to leave the sanctity of this laptop and take a shower (also, if you shower a couple of times a day you don’t need deodorant) and do a radio show. I get to talk about the trial of Lake County Sheriff John Buncich winding down. He took the stand in his own defense yesterday. I don’t know why, but every time I cover a trial and the accused takes the witness stand, I always feel as if it was probably in their best interest if they hadn’t done that. In Buncich’s case, prosecuting attorney Phil Benson ripped him up pretty good. Will it be enough to put our Sheriff behind bars? We could find out as early as today, if they do closing arguments and the jury doesn’t take too long.
A lot of people keep asking me – will Buncich be found guilty or innocent? I have no freaking idea. I just go to the federal courthouse and then tell the seven or eight people who listen to my morning radio show what I think I saw in court, and then we move on to laugh about eclipses from 40 years ago. I’ll talk to you on the other side of another three hours of magnificent local radio.