On a Monday afternoon, after discussing my computer science project with my professor, I find myself seated in a visitor’s chair in his office on the second floor of the Glatfelter Hall. The professor is about to leave the room to grab some books and a cup of coffee, but he allows me to stay. (Seeing myself as a professor in the future, I enjoy hanging out in my professor’s office.)
I am facing the door. Nothing is blocking my view.
Twenty feet in front of me, the hallway intersects my vantage point, so I’m able to see students and professors moving left and right like pedestrians on a New York City street corner. Quickly, I put my computer science notebook in my backpack, get my ASUS pro-book, and create a blank document in Microsoft Word. My viewpoint is set and I now begin looking for subjects.
My computer clock reads 4:13PM. To my left I can see wooden shelves of well-thumbed books on java, c++, unix, linux, a stack of Wired magazines, a coffee maker and a coffee mug, an out of box macbook air and an amazon box.
In the hallway, coming from right, two short and skinny Asian looking males (subjects# 20130128/1 and 20130128/2) appear in view. As they head in my direction, I can hear their excited chatter in Chinese. With little smiles on their tan faces, they greet me. Straight black hair frames their flat faces with a narrow nose and wide cheekbones. They do not find the professor at his desk, so I tell them that the professor is expected to be back shortly.
With the excited look in the faces, the subjects introduce themselves to me as Chang and Lionel. Wearing boat shoes, worn and tattered jeans and t-shirts with intricate logos, the subjects mention recently returning to campus from the study abroad program in Florence, Italy. In a few seconds, they leave and I do not see them again.
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At 4:25 pm, suddenly, a pigeon-chested male, age 35-40,( subject# 20130128/3, “the Professor”) with a height of about five feet and eleven inches, a rectangular body shape and a flat stomach smiles, walks toward me and settles to my right into a height-adjustable, blue swivel chair with armrests. In front of him, I notice a chestnut brown, cluttered desk that could easily accommodate four people, but is accommodating around forty four thousand pages of books, exams, and magazines. I see no personal touches on his desk. There are no pictures or little knickknacks. Instead, a seventeen-inch black Lenovo monitor, with two slim speakers on each side, sits in the middle of the desk top. He mentions that he would like to use my help as a assistant in one of his introductory courses this semester. Politely, I nod.
Sitting in his chair, the subject is lifting his coffee to his lips, taking baby sips. With his thick-framed glasses, his close-set, brown eyes carefully examine the computer screen directly in front of him. Intently focused, he barely blinks. Bushy dark black hair frames a square face, with a cleanly-shaven rounded chin, a pointed nose, lopsided lips, and large ears. The face is not handsome, but rather engaging in its varied features. Casually attired in a dark blue polo shirt, navy blue jeans, and black sketchers with a lace-up closure, he is dressed for comfort, function, and minimal maintenance rather than for appearance. His chair has a tilt-function, but he is sitting straight as if he is in the economy seat of a Boeing airliner.
His long fingers are slowly moving on the keyboard, suggesting no errors. Hanging around the back of his chair is a black, weathered rain jacket and a hook of an umbrella indicating his awareness of today’s rain forecast. Suddenly he stands up. Intelligent, scruffy, intense, and abstracted, he stares on the blackboard to his right. With a small piece of chalk in his hand, he writes feverishly the points that would like to explain in the colloquium this week. His handwriting is terrible: he is block-printing each letter like a junior draftsman. Intensely occupied with his work, he seems oblivious to my presence. A few seconds later, he sinks back into his seat and stares back into the screen.
An attractive blond female student (subject # 20130128/2) appears at the door. We make an eye contact and smile at each other. She is wearing an orange and blue Gettysburg track and field sweatshirt, crinkle blue tight jeans, a snug and agile pair of pink, Nike running shoes. She makes an eye contact with the professor, greets him, and the two begin chatting. I pick up pieces of the conversation. Seeming to ignore my presence, the student is explaining that last night’s electronic homework was delayed because her computer crashed. Professor, with a mildly flippant attitude but underlying seriousness, squeezes a genuine smile: he seems to be giving the benefit of doubt to the student, although his look tells me that he has a well-honed bullshit detector.
Unlike the hurried words from student, he speaks slowly using a careful word choice and without contradictions, is sensitive to the nuances and precision of language, but not devoid of empathy. Interestingly, both appear intent on avoiding eye contact, and after a few minutes, sensing the conversation is coming to a close, she looks up at him again as a sign to leave, and, seeming to receive assent, turns around to exit. I eye my computer clock. It reads 4: 47 PM. I sit for three more minutes. Nobody is around now, the professor back at his computer. I conclude my mission, shut down my laptop, say goodbye to my professor and head out of the room.