Friday, September 12, 2008

Adventures in TAing, case 3 (in a ? case series)

So i'm sitting in my office (and by "my office" I mean the office that I share with multiple people but which I occupy by my lonesome for one hour every week) at York University before teaching tutorial on Tuesday afternoon. It's the same office I had for the 07-08 school year, but better. Unlike most offices in its building, one wall has an embedded window to the hallway, which allows me access to the windows to the outdoors and real sunlight. The better part, though, is that I now have the computer to which I've always been contractually obliged but declined because I prefer the sunlight to four concrete block walls. Which is just fantastic.

I'm at this table with the computer, doing some blogging with the door open. And then The Weirdness happens.

This lanky dude wanders slowly past my door, stopping to read a post-it note affixed to the office window. (You're all assuming that he must be white because I didn't immediately racialize him and white guys tend not to notice the whiteness of other white guys. Ha! Actually, he was black.) It says "So-and-so's office hours: this time to this time on Friday". And it should take 5 seconds to read. But he stares at it intently for at least 20, which is why I notice him.

He's holding a magazine in one hand, and he taps on my door very lightly with it. I ask him if he needs help with something, and he just looks back at the note and gestures toward it with a shake of his head. I make a confused look and he gestures again and takes a couple steps into my office.

"Are you busy?" he says.

I ask him if he needs some help again. He walks toward me. (Don't worry - it was totally non-threatening.)

"Are you busy?" (2)

He didn't really answer my question, but I'm just going to assume that he needs help with something because these are the sort of brilliant deductions I'm capable of making on the spot. "Well, what do you need help WITH?"

"Are you busy?" (3)

I'm not freaked out (yet) but I'm wondering what his deal is. Because he can't possibly be solely interested in knowing whether I'm busy. Even I'm not interested in this question, and I have a vested interest in myself and what I'm doing. "Uhh... not really."

"Are you busy?" (4), this time a bit more emphatically.

Evidently, he didn't like my answer, which I thought was actually rather adequate.
I notice that in his non-magazine holding hand he's holding a Political Science textbook and a syllabus that belongs to a course that is not the one I TA. So assuming that this guy's secret motive is very likely related to another class or the Poli Sci program or something else that I probably don't know anything about, I say "Do you have a question about Humanities 1970? [This being the course I TA, for which I have been given office space and time.] Because if you don't then I probably can't help you."

"Are you busy?" (5)

This time I don't even say anything. I just sorta arch my eyebrow and let my jaw go slack. I have no idea what's going on or how to respond anymore. It's like that two-second moment when you first realized that Kevin Spacey is Keyser Soze and you're so amused and surprised by the realization that you're momentarily stunned into paralysis. Only replace "amused" with "bewildered" or "mildly horrified".
He sighs and rolls his eyes.

"Are you busy?" (6)

Now I'm getting a bit pissed off too. "I don't know what you need help with!" (I've thrown in an exclamation point for emphasis, not volume. I'm dropping my voice, rather than getting louder, so as to sound more authoritative and masculine. Because that's just how authority rolls. And because I'm wearing a gray and pink sweater vest that otherwise undercuts my masculine authority.)

"Are. You. Busy?" (7)

He clearly thinks I'm an idiot, but I don't know why. I silently wonder: am I being filmed? Am I going to be a reality TV star twice over?
"How do you even know I can help you?"

"Are you busy?" (8) Yeah, he's very clearly using the 'I think I'm talking to a moron' tone. Which is appropriate, because, at this point, so am I.

But this is getting old. And it's getting unbearably annoying fast, so I start to get snarky. "You know, usually you start by introducing yourself or saying hello when you walk into someone's office. And then you ask your question."

He sighs audibly, throws his hands up into the air and stomps out of the room. And sensing that I have about one second to say something clever and biting before he walks out the door and I never see him again, I say, "Dude, you are weird." Seriously. I'm in my ninth year of higher education and that's the best I could come up with.

He turns the corner of the doorway and disappears just momentarily. Then he takes a step backward, leans his head back into the room and says - remarkably - "You too."

Note: It's very possible that there was another one or two "Are you busy"s in there. It was hard to keep track in the moment.

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