Monday, September 12, 2011

For Want of a Zipper

For want of a zipper, writing time was lost.

One day last week I woke up half an hour early. That meant I got to work half an hour early. After dealing with emails from, 1) a student who needed a form signed but couldn’t meet any of my office hours, 2) a student explaining why she hadn’t turned in the essay due Thursday, 3) a student explaining that she’d lost her ID and therefore couldn’t swipe into class on Wednesday but was nevertheless present and could I let the university know, 4) a graduate student from another university who wanted me to find a research file for her because her advisor, who also had the file in her office, wasn’t available at just that moment, 5) a faculty member who really likes to talk on the phone, and 6) some emails that I actually ‘needed’ to deal with, I realized I had almost 35 minutes free before my first class.

I had prepared my class notes the night before so 30 of that 35 minutes suddenly became writing time. I called up a story on my computer that I’ve been working on but made the mistake of needing to go the bathroom first. In the bathroom, my zipper broke. And hell followed with it.

I spent a minute or two trying to fix my zipper in the bathroom, with no luck, so I untucked my shirt and casually sauntered back to my office, whereupon I closed my door and frantically stripped off my pants to work on the zipper. That availed me nothing. Zippers are a technological marvel, but when they break down it becomes a job for an expert. (Much like a computer or a modern automobile.) I lack the appropriate training for any of those jobs.

I put my pants back on and sauntered up to the secretary’s desk, inquiring if she had any safety pins. (A search of my own desk had proven fruitless. I had plenty of paper clips but didn’t think they were my solution to this particular Kobayashi Maru.) Fortunately, our secretary had two safety pins, a King Kong sized one and a hobbit sized one. I thanked her for them and sauntered back to my office, where I closed the door and frantically began trying to use the two pins to close the gap in my pants. They did the trick…partially. But both pins were bright silver and gleamed like the corona of the sun. I considered adding staples at that point but I don’t really like waving weapons around anywhere below my belly button.

Although I don’t have extra pants at my office, I did happen to have an extra shirt that was on the large side. I put it on, leaving it untucked, and attempted to verify for myself whether or not my newly armored and shiny crotch would be visible to my students. (Did I mention that 80 percent of my students are female?) A colleague whose office is next to mine had arrived by now and I considered asking for a double check. However, she is also female, and though we are friends I did not see it turning out well if I asked her to check my crotch area to make sure she couldn’t see the safety pins under my billowy shirt tail.

Fortunately, a few offices away sat a male colleague. Making sure that he was alone, I entered his office and indicated to him that I had a rather huge favor to ask of him. And by huge I just mean large, of course. Or well, medium. I explained my predicament and asked, as delicately as I could, if he might visually scan the affected area to see if I were going to get fired for pulling a Jim Morrison on a bunch of undergraduates. His eyes appeared to flicker lower for the barest of bare fractions of an instant and back up. He said that he didn’t think I had anything to worry about as long as I didn’t “reach up” while writing on the board. I thanked him and fled, wondering if we would ever speak again, and knowingwe’d never discuss…the incident.

Returning to my office, I realized that I had approximately 1 minute of the lovely 30 minute writing time left. I checked email instead. For want of a zipper, writing time was lost. That’s my morning excuse and I’m sticking to it.

As for my classes that morning? I stayed very still behind the lectern the entire time, except for when I turned my back fully to the students in order to reach up and write on the board. As the old timers say, “praise the lord and pass the safety pins.”
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42 comments:

Paul R. McNamee said...

"I don’t really like waving weapons around anywhere below my belly button. "

I concur.

(funny story, too)

the walking man said...

I take it then that you were wearing tight white underwear and your students would have used their IPhones to gather ammo for a better grade at the end of the term had you moved about the room?

What I would have done is gone to class with zipper busted and told them it was all a pretest or preparation for reactionary psychology quiz coming up.

You know how ardent those undergrads are about their good old GeePEEAAAYA.

Keith said...

I had that happen once. Fortunately I lived close enough to campus to go home and change.

Tom Doolan said...

Thanks for that giggle. While the writer in me laments your loss, the sadistic bastard in me is experiencing a light sense of Schadenfreude.

Randy Johnson said...

Been there, done that.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I feel your pain...

David J. West said...

I've had the same problems on occasion, thank good ness for long shirttails.

Angie said...

Yikes! (Heh.) I think Tom Doolan has given an excellent example of common psychology, how we can feel sorry for someone and snicker at their predicament at the same time.

I never broke a zipper at work, but that sort of issue is why I always had extra pantyhose in my desk, back when I was a secretary and wore such. Of course, they didn't help the one time I tore my skirt -- on the side, right at hip level -- on a nail protruding from a counter at work. :/ Nothing awful was showing, so I just cussed (it was a favorite skirt) and went on about my day. I had a bunch of people do the, "Hey, your skirt's torn," to which I replied, "Yeah, I know," and they were all o_O when I didn't immediately dive to do anything about it.

After that, though, I started stocking safety pins along with the pantyhose. :P

Angie

Charles Gramlich said...

Paul, funnier now.

Mark, I didn't think about that. I'm actually still not thinking about that. :)

Keith, I live an hour away from campus. One way.

Tom, I'll remember that for when it happens to you. :)

Randy, not an experience I wish to relive.

Alex, thanks,

David J., I'm gonna make sure to keep a long tailed shirt at my office from now on.

Angie, I have now learned the safety pin hoarding behavior. Brought some in with me this morning to work.

Deka Black said...

That hurts a lot. Zipper stories are fun... once the time has passed.

laughingwolf said...

lol...

i thought, perhaps, in the bathroom there'd be the WORST possible zipper incident [happened to me on more than one occasion, though not while teaching] some part of the SKIN got caught in the zipper!

talk about pain/embarrassment! :O

and yeah, scars remain... to this day! lol

Oscar said...

The zipper fairy always makes sure it happens at a bad time.

Carole said...

Oh my goodness. You did a masterful job of storytelling. Tears are still running down my cheeks from laughter. I loved the reference to the Kobayashi Maru. Excellent analogy.

BernardL said...

I bet you have spare pants at work now. :)

The Golden Eagle said...

That sounds like some predicament. :P

Charles Gramlich said...

Deka Black, Yes, exactly.

laughingwolf, fortunately no. And I'm very glad not.

Oscar,I'd like to zip the zipper fairy up in one.

Carole, thanks. I rather liked the Kobayashi reference myself.

BernardL, I'm buying some more for that purpose this evening.

The Golden Eagle, yes, it truly was.

Steve Malley said...

Lol! :D

laughingwolf said...

no doubt, charles :O lol

G said...

If anything, you just might have the seedling for a flashed out...ummm...fleshed out....ummm...fully packed story.

Erik Donald France said...

Oh. man . . . Henceforth, I'm gonna keep a full set of extra clothes at work . . . just in case . . . a cautionary tale of sorts . . .

Ron Scheer said...

And I thought I was unduly modest. Ha.

Cloudia said...

So you write excellent NON-fiction also!


Aloha from Waikiki;


Comfort Spiral


> < } } ( ° >



><}}(°>

Travis Cody said...

One suspects that a drawer in your office will soon have a spare pair of pants along with a full supply of safety pins.

And duct tape. Duct tape is the cure-all.

Charles Gramlich said...

Steve Malley, ;)

Laughingwolf, ‘shudder, man”

G, lol. Maybe so. I need a better (or worse) ending, though.

Erik Donald France, me too.

Ron Scheer, Or unduly embarrassable.

Cloudia, thankee.

Travis Cody, duct tape. In several colors to match my pants!

eric1313 said...

Oh no--The unclosable crotch strikes!

Reminded me of a passage from All My Friends are Going to be Strangers, where the hero's zipper ripped clean out of his suit on the day of a book signing for his first novel. He was the one who stated it as having an unclosable crotch. Of course, later his daughter was born (to a less than ideal ex), and he had to hit the hospital with his unclosable crotch as well. Really, some of the most climactic moments happened during the vigil of the unclosable crotch.

lol

Yes, I still recommend that novel to anyone who will listen. I regularly let people borrow it just to get the to read it so I have people to talk about the book to. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Eric1313, I never heard of that book. Now I'm gonna have to read it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This is bound to prove a useful experience for some future work of fiction. Your students swipe into class? Weird. Here only my husband keeps track of attendance in a university of 35,000.

Elaine Ash said...

HAHAHAHAHAHAH! HA! Have you considered writing comedy? Because this is hysterical. MY discomfort and embarrassment is my discomfort and embarrassment. But others' discomfort and embarrassment is comedy!

L.A. Mitchell said...

This had me laughing today (sorry it was due to your misfortune :)

The only thing you will ever talk about with your male co-worker from now on will be "How 'bout them Saints"

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, In part, it's because we have to keep good records because so many students at Xavier get some form of financial aid.

Elaine Ash, my discomfort and embarrassement is comedy. At least after the fact.

L.A. Mitchell, yes, fortunately he is a Saints fan.

ivan said...

Or, you could give what you swore was the funniest, most entertaining lecture ever,only to find afterwards that the safety pin had unclasped. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, and that's a different story.

jennifer said...

I take it no piercings? Oh I kid.

I loved this part of the story... "And by huge I just mean large, of course. Or well, medium." What a completely male way to describe a pants-related favor :)

X. Dell said...

I never used the lecturn execpt in large lecture halls. I'm glad to see they're useful for something in smaller teaching venues.

It's always something, isn't it?

Charles Gramlich said...

Jennifer, I wondered if that part might not be pushing it. I'm glad it came out as funny. :)

x-Dell, I don't use the lectern most of the time for anything other than a note holder, but it came in handy that day.

sage said...

Just consider the writing this pinned zipper prompted in your student journals (or tweets)

Write first, emails later (advice I need to remember as I come to the end of my sabbatical)

Shrinky said...

Can't fix a zipper? Pah, pass the scissors (shaking my head)..

'Fraid this tends to confirm all I know about you academic types (wink).

eric1313 said...

It's hands down McMurtry's best novel, in my opinion. Everyone should read it! The only problem with it is it's not long enough.

Richard Prosch said...

Love the kobayashi maru line. Love the Morrison line too! Zipper tech is indeed complex physics --but I think females are better at it than males. My mom could always fix a jacket zipper lickety-split!

Drizel said...

whahahahahaha, o my word, I giggled all the way through, you must have panicked big time...:)

jodi said...

Charles! It's so rare that you show your funny side! I can picture this scene perfectly. Just be thankful you don't have a 'monthly'-that accident is much harder to hide!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, hum,if only I thought I was so important to them.

Shrinky, zippers are like the apple in the garden of eden. Desirable but they pave the road to hell. :)

eric1313, well Lonesome dove was sure long enough.

Richard Prosch, maybe it’s because women have smaller fingers.! :)

Drizel, it was not an experience I particularly want to relive.

Jodi, eek, yeah, I should count my blessings. :)