I’m auditing a class a friend of mine is teaching at Lesley University, in Cambridge. Lesley has taken over the old Sears building in Porter Square. For a long time, this building was where you went for all things Japanese. It had a bunch of restaurants and little markets, and a few big retail stores in the front. (Remember Conrans?) There are a few restaurants left, and a small Asian market, but the main retail shop is now the Lesley bookstore and the building itself is called University Hall.
The class my friend is teaching is about writing for children, which is what the students look like to me. At the first meeting, I wanted to be inconspicuous and take a seat in the back of the room. However, the chairs were set up around tables arranged in a big U, and the seats at the back, the bottom of the U, were very popular with the students. I was forced to slink all the way around the room to an empty seat up front. The seats opposite me were popular, too. They are the ones nearest the door.
The class is taught in two sections, lecture and workshop. I’d like to be able to sneak out before the workshop portion next time. It would be less disruptive if I had one of the seats near the door, but to score one I need to get there earlier than I have been. If I get there any earlier, I have to pay more to park. The lot behind the building is two dollars for the first two and a half hours, and then it leaps to eight.
The only way to get to the classrooms on the fourth floor is by elevator, of which there is one, and it’s small. There’s a big, broad staircase in the middle of the lobby. I asked the security guard/parking cashier if I could take the stairs to the fourth floor. He said no. I asked if there was another elevator. He said there was, on the other side of the building, and I’d need a Lesley ID to use it, which effectively meant no. The crowd that collects in front of the elevator before class is formidable and if you’re at the back you’re not getting on with the first batch. So even if I don’t want to be early to class, I need to be early to ride the elevator, in order not to be late.
During the first class, while I was trying to be small and inconspicuous, my cell phone rang. My cell phone never rings (except for that time I was at Mary’s mother’s funeral which is a story for another time) and the only way I know how to silence it is to flip it open and closed. While I was scrabbling in my purse, looking for the phone, the whole class was staring at me.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, my cheeks bright red. “My phone never rings. And I don’t know how to turn it off.” I found it and flipped it open and closed. Then I turned it off so the person on the other end couldn’t call back and tell me how rude I’d been to hang up on them.
I had already been introduced as a writer who was going to audit the class. After that the students all mentally adjusted my profile to include dinosaur. Maybe they’re right.