Friday, October 31, 2008
The Strange Powers of Professor X
The year was 1992. I attended college in one town and worked/lived in another. Back in 1992 we'd fill out a 3X5 index card at the beginning of each course--name, address, phone number. I always used my parents' phone number because it had less chance of changing mid-term on me. (We also stood in long lines with slips of paper to register in person for our classes--remember that? It would take ALL DAY. Kids these days have no idea.)
Among the courses in my schedule that spring was "Ethics In Biotechnology: Prometheus Unbound." My professor was very thin, pale as paste, looked like he celebrated his hundreth birthday thirty years ago and as if wearing his black academic robes to class wasn't enough, he also carried a staff. Not a cane, kids, a staff. This man was an expert in everything gothic and creepy--and his courses reflected this. "Gothic Fiction" was his other infamous offering. In his office he even had a stuffed raven. Spoooooo-ky.
The class focused on Mary Shelley's brilliant Frankenstein (which, if you have not read it? Stop reading my piddly-ass blog and grab yourself a copy NOW! To this day, no other woman achieved what she did as either a writer or a thinker. You--yeah, I'm pointing to you. Get your hands off the DVD. Kenneth Branagh and Robert Di Nero are no substitute for the real deal. Get the book.) Where were we?
Ah yes, spring, 1992. I toiled away at understanding how man's overreaching can result in unexpected ethic and moral consequences. Class debates whirled around stem cell research, infertility treatments and plastic surgery. The professor commanded the discussion with his strong yet creaky old man voice, his loose sleeves flowing like bat wings while he paced in front of the room.
I drove back to my apartment one Thursday afternoon--I rented the upstairs of an old farmhouse at the time. I parked my booty on the couch and began toiling at my homework. I had a conference scheduled with Professor X the following morning about my paper for his class so I had to get a substantial draft written. My phone rang.
Kids, in 1992 nobody but the very rich and famous had cell phones. Back then, everyone was still connected by a twirly cord to the wall. Some richer people had cordless phones, but their range was only to the back yard. This is important to remember.
I picked it up and it was Stella, my co-worker from the bar. "Kristy's sick and she was supposed to come in at four to work tonight. Can you come in and wait tables?"
The bar was out of the question, but the dining room closed by ten. And a slow Thursday could put me back home by nine--plenty of time to finish my paper and get a decent night's sleep before my early morning conference. "Sure. I'll see you in a bit."
Closing my books, I grabbed my sweatshirt and headed down the rickety wooden steps built off the north side of the farmhouse and hopped on my mountain bike. My ride to work was brief and I took over the dining room from Stella, grateful for the chance to earn a little unexpected cash. Kristy looked up dolefully from where she sat on a stool, her belly now huge with expected child. "Go home!" I exhorted her. "You look awful."
Kristy waddled off, Stella gave me the tickets for the two tables seated in the dining room and I took over. Waiting tables was easy money, plus on Thursdays there was a high school kid to do the dishes. Score!
Around seven I was called back to the kitchen for a phone call.
A phone call? Who'd be calling me here? I hadn't told anyone I was called in to work last minute. Hell, I didn't even have an answering machine to leave forwarding information to anyone calling me! These thoughts swirled through my head while I walked the length of the building to grab the receiver from the dishwasher. I leaned against the greasy wall feeling the spicy heat eminating from the pizza ovens and lifted the phone to my ear.
"Green Girl, this is Professor X. I've been called to do a television interview tomorrow about Friday the Thirteenth since I'm somewhat of an expert on these things. We'll need to reschedule our conference for a different morning."
At the end of the conversation I hung up the phone in shock. How did he know I was here? How did he even know I worked here (40 minutes away from campus) and besides! I'd been called in last minute.
When I returned home after my shift, I called my parents to see if perhaps Professor X had called them first and they somehow led him to me. That would make sense, theirs was the contact number I'd given him. No. They had not.
The question remains: How did Professor X track me down?