Monday, February 25, 2013

Found: The Ugly American

I'll make the statement, first: I was in class yesterday with a guy who just plain disgusted me.

Now, we of the Sesame Street era and we of the Judeo-Christian backdrop have been taught not to judge others. (A lesson I think we have taken a bit too far -- which has been transmuted into: "Never give an opinion about someone else;" or, "never say when you think someone has done something wrong." But that is for another piece.) Those of us of this sort of background might react to my statement, above, as a horrible thing to say.

But, notice, that I did not say that the guy was a disgusting person. He just plain disgusted me. I had a visceral reaction to him: "Yuk."

He didn't stink. He wasn't unsightly. His actions, attitude and manner simply disgusted me, from the beginning to the end of a four-hour class.

He sat behind me and to the left. At a glance, I saw that he was a few years older than I -- maybe in his mid-fifties. He was a guy who was changing to the teaching profession from something else (I can only assume this decision was entirely driven by his desire to coach sports, because that is all he referenced, all through the class, decked, as he was, literally, from head-to-toe in Adidas wear.)

From the first minute of class, he chewed. He had a bag of something crunchy. Mini-Wheats? Mouse skeletons? Lilliputian atom bombs? From the professor's first word, he crunched deeply and slowly on them -- one after the other. His mouth was closed. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a vision of turning around and punching him and sending a spray of cereal and teeth into the lecture hall air. One. After. The. Other. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Rhythmic.Crunching.

It was unbelievable. The way he crunched felt oddly like a seedy violation of my ears.

And he was loud in every thing he did. He whispered, loudly and deeply, just like he chewed -- not loudly enough to annoy the professor, but just loudly enough to distract everyone around him.

And when he talked, he bellowed, often with a mouth nearly full of whatever the hell he was crunching. He barked right at the line between assertiveness and aggression -- with the a the tone of a guy who thinks this teaching thing is going to be easy -- summers off and stuff -- because, in his former job, he negotiated gazillion dollar deals while walking on the treadmill and eating veggie burritos.

I restrained myself. After, all, I am complaining about distraction, so it might be interpreted as a bit hypocritical to have started a row in the middle of a lecture on school law. (We must also allow that I was, in fact, in the middle of a lecture on school law. It may possibly have been that my nerves were already on edge.)

Why am I sharing this? I was hoping you would ask. For years, science has been looking for the "missing link." We haven't found him yet. But, have we not also been looking for the elusive "The Ugly American"? I'm pretty sure this was him. I'll have to contact the university's sociology department and gather up my fifteen minutes.

Oh. Whoops. I suppose that did turn out to be judgmental.

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