Thursday, September 9, 2010

Course Overload #18: "The Seventh Planet from the Sun and Other Cosmic Mysteries"

I thought that maybe, by some miracle, this semester might actually be “normal.” It was already four weeks in and I hadn’t been accosted by sinister aliens, nor had the library tried to eat me yet. Well, at one point, some guy outside of the cafeteria told me he wanted my blood, but I found out later it was only a blood drive. (I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to him and tell him that I hope his nose recovers quickly; and his glasses, too.) So I was feeling fairly confident that I would actually get some learning done this time around.

I have since learned to completely stop trusting my instincts in such matters.

One Thursday night, after praying that the waters around the island in Survivor would carry Richard Hatch away in all his naked, fish-catching splendor, my friend Meg and I somehow got into a conversation about the planets. We knew there were nine of them, but between the two of us, we could only recall eight: Earth, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Uranus, Mercury, Pluto, and Saturn. Around 2 a.m., we thought we had a breakthrough. However, according to Google, Cleveland isn’t a planet; it’s actually a continent.

About an hour and a half later, Meg became very excited. “Wait, what was the planet with the rings again?” she asked. “You know, the rings that were supposed to have been put there by aliens?”

“By aliens?” I thought for a moment. “Check Uranus,” I replied.

It went on like that for hours. By daybreak, the two of us were so exhausted, we just wanted to get something to eat and then go to sleep. So, after trying to figure it out over breakfast at the Neptune diner, I dropped Meg back at her dorm where she quickly fell asleep hunched over her laptop, in search of the elusive ninth planet.

I’d have gone to sleep as well if I didn’t have class. Sitting with my hand propping up my head, about half way through Copyediting, I noticed something peculiar. A group of perspective students and their parents were suddenly peering into my classroom, pointing at the desks, the professor and the students.

“This is one of the MST building’s many classrooms,” said the guide loudly.

“Wow!” replied the crowd simultaneously, as if the guide hadn’t stated the obvious.

“The dirty wet dog and stinky feet smell that permeates the science wing probably comes from that boy with the ponytail sitting in the corner,” continued the guide, pointing at me.

“But... I took a shower today!” I exclaimed, tears forming in my eyes.

“I knew it was him!” said a young man in the crowd. “It’s so obvious.” With that, the tour guide motioned them away from the classroom and down the hall.

After class and a significant amount of time spent weeping and trying to take a bath with hand soap in a bathroom sink, I went to have lunch with my friends. (Meg was still asleep, no doubt dreaming of that blasted ninth planet.) Within minutes, my friends had helped me forget about the tour.

But my solace was short lived. As I was about to shove a few french-fries in my mouth, I heard what sounded like a stadium full of people suddenly march into the cafeteria. Looking up, I found myself staring once again into the evil eyes of the tour guide.

“This is one of the places where students eat,” he began. “As you can see, Stinky Ponytail Boy has chosen to gorge himself on french-fries today.”

“I see!” exclaimed one of the parents. Meanwhile, people from the crowd had begun inspecting the cafeteria, examining my silverware, blowing their noses in my napkin, sampling my sandwich, and poking my stomach, presumably to see the long term effects of possibly poisonous cafeteria food on the average student. Some shook their heads in approval, while others were not satisfied at all.

“What do you think you’re doing!?” I exclaimed, pulling my flub away from the inquisitive poking of the potential students.

“Just look natural, fatty!” yelled the tour guide, glaring at me angrily. “You’ll scare away next year’s freshmen.”

“I don’t have to take this!” I exclaimed, jumping out of my seat.

“Actually, you do,” replied the tour guide. “You didn’t read the fine print on your application, did you?”

I don’t know if it’s even medically possible, but I think at that point my brain started to cry. I had to get out of there. Leaping over the table like a short ponytailed ninja, I bolted straight for the door. In seconds, I was running through the lower parking lot.

But there was the tour guide, yet again, standing in the grass near my car. “Here in beautiful Crimeburgh, nothing ever goes wrong,” he proclaimed. Just as he finished his sentence, a police siren squealed in the background.

“Sirens are so romantic,” interjected one of the parents.

“And to your left, you will see Fat Stinky Ponytail Boy screaming with paranoid terror and hoping into his car.”

“Is paranoid terror covered in the basic tuition costs?” inquired one of the parents.

I didn’t leave the door open long enough to hear the answer. With U2’s “Mysterious Ways” blaring over my radio to drown out anything that foul tour guide might say, I sped away from the college, fighting tears and ignoring traffic rules.

That night, I concocted a foolproof plan to rid myself of that insane tour guide. The next day, I would pay someone to survey the campus before I got there, and stand guard until the tours were over.

I turned off my lights and crawled into bed, secure in the knowledge that the tour group couldn’t hurt me now; I was too far away for them to find me. I quickly began to fall asleep.

Two minutes later, my light flipped back on. I sat up quickly, and stared at the gaggle of people now standing right in front of me.

“Most commuter students sleep in their respective homes,” announced the guide with grand authority. The crowd seemed very pleased with this fact for some reason. As the group began sifting through all of my stuff, I could feel the gentle trickle of a tear inside my skull as my brain softly wept.

As I finally drifted off to sleep, I dreamed of a rocket that would whisk me off to that nameless final planet, where, hopefully, no tour guides are allowed.

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