Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Friday, January 31, 2003

Building on yesterday's post about choosing a new seat in Property class...

“778 Words About Assigned Seating”

I’m not sure whether I won or lost the assigned seat lottery this semester. In both required 1L classes, I was assigned a seat in the back row. One fictional classmate I’m inventing solely for the purpose of writing this column thought I got lucky: “I hate sitting in the front,” she would have said if she were real. “I feel too exposed. Too conspicuous. Too noticeable.” (If she were an exceptionally ironic fictional person, I would point out that she often came to class not wearing any clothes. But I’ll choose instead not to head down that path.) She also might have mentioned how it’s much more difficult to fall asleep, play solitaire, or make cell phone calls while sitting in the front row. Another fictional classmate thought I got the short end of the stick. “I hate being in the back,” he said as he practiced raising his hand in preparation for the first day of his elective. “The professor never notices me nodding my head in agreement.” I yawned. He continued: “And, sitting in the front row lets me pretend that it’s just me and the professor, having a one-on-one conversation. Like there’s no one else in the room.” I tried to interrupt. But he just kept talking. Even after I walked away. Even after the janitor turned off the lights. Even after the world ended.

After a week of classes, I had gotten used to my back row seats. And had started to appreciate the people-watching that you can do when you’re in the back. I was getting used to the guy three rows in front of me who’s addicted to spider solitaire, but really bad at it. Used to the girl down the row who stays awake by playing with dust. And used to the guy across the room who brings animal crackers to class and uses them to put on elaborate animal cracker plays on his desk. I started naming the plays in my head. On Monday, I enjoyed “Lion goes to the Circus to see the Elephants.” On Tuesday, I watched “Three Tigers eat the Zebra, and then visit their good friend, the Giraffe.” And on Wednesday, it was “Rooster, Seal, and Boar Hog have a threesome.”

But it all came to a crashing halt this past Wednesday, when our Property professor told us he’d gotten complaints about how people feel cramped and can’t fit their laptops, power cords, casebooks, notepads, wrist supports, foldable keyboards, portable monitors, donuts, coffee mugs and animal crackers on the desks without infringing on their neighbors’ space. (My ironic imaginary friend noted that it was especially fitting that people would complain about their personal space in a class about Property. But, then again, my imaginary friend is also convinced that the Hark’s “Sushi Day” came about by accident, when the oven broke and they were unable to finish cooking the “flounder with molasses gravy and chunks of blue cheese” that was originally on the menu) So, since the back half of the room was empty, he allowed us to come in the next day and pick new seats.

Unfortunately for people who were hoping to get fodder for a super-amusing column about the seat-picking event, it was a fairly calm process. No fistfights over any particular seats, no arguments reminiscent of second-grade class trips when kids fought over whether or not you were allowed to “save seats” for your best friend, and nobody seemed visibly upset that he had carefully placed himself in “the perfect seat” and then his arch-enemy came along and sat down right next to him. (My ironic imaginary friend sometimes wishes he had an arch-enemy. He thinks it would be cool.)

It sounds fairly pathetic to say, but I actually set my alarm for 10 minutes earlier than usual so I would get to class to make sure I got a good seat, and wouldn't be stuck right behind a compulsive Snood player, next to a compulsive talker, or directly in front of a compulsive projectile vomiter (or is it vomitor?).

In the end, I was giving myself (and my ironic imaginary friend) a headache by thinking so hard about the relatively unimportant choice of seats. So I left it up to chance. I called my grandmother and asked her to choose a number between one and a hundred. She chose 475. She had forgotten to take her pills. I asked her again, but spoke more slowly. She chose “molybdenum.” And since molybdenum is number 42 on the periodic table of the elements, I chose seat 42. (And now there’s even room for my ironic imaginary friend to sit next to me!)