When I was in
college right on through grad school, I used to find myself in classes
with transient characters known as non-traditional students. This
was the term applied to older students (usually women) who found
going back to school (or going to college for the first time) with a
much younger crowd. Often they were flirting with the idea of
that they weren't really all that serious about, much in the way
folk do with community college and then drop out a few semesters down
line when they loose interest to whatever else catches their
The pattern here was much the same.
Case No.1: I was
not to actually have a class with Wolverine (so named for her claw-like
fingernails that extended a couple inches past her fingertips), but my
(then-)friend Janice did have one with her. That meant I got to
updates about her every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday within hours of
end of that class. In fact, the stories about Wolverine grew so
that I and another friend actually went to Janice's class just to
her in action in her natural habitat, so to speak.
Wolverine was probably in her
almost certainly never married or had any kids. I don't know that
I ever knew what she did for a living, but she certainly had a lot of
time. She consumed huge blocks of the class period derailing the
lecture with off-topic questions and irrelevant (but self-aggrandizing)
anecdotes. My favorite of these began, "When I went to my first
ball..." The emphasis on "first" was simultaneously sickening and
hilarious in its transparency.
Additionally, at the end of
she would sit in wait until all the other students had cleared away
their teacher had addressed their questions. Once she was alone,
then Wolverine could monopolize her and would keep the poor professor
class for some seemingly interminable period (which none of us were
to stick around to actually clock for the record).
The professor was a fairly
young and mousy
woman who had likely only been teaching for a couple semesters.
had almost certainly had never encountered a creature such as this, let
alone one with bared claws. In any case, she had absolutely no
to be assertive and say, "I have a faculty meeting to go to" or "See me
during office hours" or "I can recommend a great therapist who would be
willing to listen to your stories, but frankly, I'm just not getting
to stand here and have you heap this bullshit on me."
In one of my English classes there was this Jewish lady in her
She had a couple preteen kids and a fashion sense that was closer to
her kids were wearing than what we were in class. She could not
looked more out of place at the redneck school we were attending.
From what we gathered talking to her, she had remarried and was now
a rich, much-older husband who was willing to foot the bill for this
hobby of academia in addition to financing her completely bizarre
One day I came to class
wearing a pair
of jeans that were really old. In fact, one of the knees had worn
to the point it was started to split and leave a big hole in it,
the other was just threadbare. That same day our non-traditional
friend came to class with a pair of obviously professionally
jeans with holes all over them. She had definitely paid too much
for them, and the "tears" were clearly fake... and outdated, as this
the early '90s and even hair metal (never mind the legitimate stuff of
a decade earlier) was on its way out. I pointed out that I had a
hole in my jeans too, but then I told her it was on the wrong side and
I was worried people would think I was gay.
"Really?" she exclaimed,
how the earlier trend with earrings had transferred to blue jeans
her notice. You could tell she was mentally sorting through her
to see what she needed to toss out.
"I'm kidding," I
confessed. The guys
around us listening in on the conversation snickered. We played
games like this with her all the time. I think I saw her a little
the following semester, but then she disappeared.
remember Bell from the Time-Traveling Tuesday a couple weeks ago about
her daughter. I met the mother in a speech class we took together
my sophomore year. I don't remember any especially egregious
attempts to time-travel to her classmates' age, but she and I did cut
like high-schoolers in there quite a lot, including (but not limited
passing notes making fun of some of the dumb-asses taking the class
After I had gotten in touch
with her daughter
again about a dozen years later, I wondered what became of Bell.
In case you missed the backstory, I transferred the next year after I
her and didn't stay in contact with her for very long after that.
I won't go into detail, but she (Bell) dropped out of school after only
a year or two. As her daughter put it, "She never finishes
she starts." That seemed to be the pattern where this demographic
this one woman in my chemistry lab wasn't all that much older than we
she was behind enough that she somehow had never heard the term "disco
nap" before. Another student and I were talking when one of us
out that expression, and she interrupted with a very snotty "What the
is that?" I think I was the one who explained it to her, but
I was to blame for the fact that she was ignorant of what I thought was
a common expression. I didn't bother talking (or even responding)
to her anymore after that.
About a year or two later I
already, so I don't know anything about her academic fate beyond that
but I happened to be passing through the mall in town, and I saw her
with her husband and their two kids (probably ages two and four at the
time). She was having a tough time of it with the kids being
and the husband nowhere near as helpful as she wanted. There was
no love between them in that moment, and it didn't seem unreasonable to
extrapolate that graph to divorce court within a few more years.
She wasn't very happy in her life, and I was very pleased to see she
ended up with the one she most deserved.
went to grad school after teaching for a few years, I found myself in a
graduate level neuroscience lecture class with a woman in her
You could tell she wasn't really following the discussion very
I remember her commenting that, "I think this is very esoteric.
you think this stuff is very esoteric?" I'm pretty sure that was
the one she missed in Reader's Digest Word Power earlier that
and now she felt compelled to push the word on everyone to prove she
what it meant from now on. Of course, she didn't. This was
a class on the fundamental topics in the branch of program she was
to be entering at that stage. In other words, not esoteric at
I didn't see her anymore after that semester.
semesters later, this (again) much older woman turned up in a couple of
my classes (developmental biology and advanced cell). She hadn't
been in school in at least a couple decades during which time "little"
things like the Human Genome Project and the internet happened, just
starters... and here we were going to be expected to run searches for
gene sequences in several other genome databases for homework later
In spite of the fact that she
realized immediately she was out of her league, her attitude was that
was superior to all of us solely on the basis of her accomplishment of
having been born thirty years before most of her classmates. Most
of us didn't talk to her once we caught a whiff of the attitude.
In fact, one day several of my friends and I were talking before class
and she wasn't part of the conversation. It was only the second
meeting (We met only once a week at 6:30pm), and a friend was listing
bizarre assignments her professor put down for the students right at
"What class is this again?" I
The old bitch turned around,
only that line and sneered, "You don't know what class this is?"
apparently, that I somehow just stumbled into a random lecture hall one
night and, though I was talking to my friends, somehow didn't have any
notion what classes I had registered for that semester.
I hope the look I gave her
served as a
mirror she hadn't ever consulted before. "No," I said, "She's
about a class. I wanted to know which one. We're having a
"Oh," she said. She
turned back around
and shut the fuck up like maybe we'd just forget her how her smugness
Within a few weeks she
herself completely lost and ended up getting the university to shift
to a different set of more basic courses without her having to drop out
completely. Actually, I think she did anyway. I never saw