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.”