Monday, October 09, 2006
Half way through our second section of Contracts, the room started to get tense. Forty minutes earlier I had asked someone how far she thought we'd get in the reading. She looked down at my open page covered in highlighting. "Oh we'll NEVER get that far," she assured me. I certainly haven't read to where you are. If we do, you'll be the best-prepared one!" I laughed uneasily. I wasn't so sure.
Thirty minutes in, the professor called out a case and page number. I heard several indrawn hisses from the seats around me. The girl next to me muttered "Oh Jesus" under her breath. Suddenly I realized that the whole class was worried. Would he get beyond where anyone had read, or would he stop at the very precipice of our preparation?
We marched on, working our way through the textbook. I watched every minute tick by on my computer clock. On through the cases I knew, into the thicket of discussion notes and hypotheticals that provided filler. One note concerned a man who checked a parcel of furs and sued when the checkroom lost it. The checkroom insisted that the disclaimer on his ticket stub amounted to a contract. The case referrred to a "bailer" and a "bailee" in a most confusing manner. The language was convoluted and archaic, and included several confusing court results. The appellate judges had disagreed about whether the man should get a thousand dollars or 25, as per the stub disclaimer. I had barely noticed it in my careful reading of the surrounding cases.
"Ms. Sfrajett." My heart stabbed. I felt it stab. With five minutes to go, he called on me.
No problem. I scanned the case. No highlighting. No notes. Why had I not written any notes? He asked me who won. I couldn't say. I read it again. I gave one result, but that wasn't the one he meant. He badgered me for the final ruling. I swear I couldn't find it in the oddly-worded argument. One guy piped up from across the room that it was hard to tell what it said. The professor moved on, just as I found the answer. The court held that the ticket was not a contract becuase the ticketholder thought it was just a ticket. But I was too late. I remained an idiot, unredeemed in the eyes of my peers. The ex-English professor. What a joke!
Class ended and the room erupted. I heard one woman behind me complain bitterly that she hadn't been able to tell what he was asking when he called on her. She said she knew he thought she was stupid.
I didn't think she was stupid. I don't think anybody else did, either. The person I had spoken with in the library laughed about how she had nearly peed herself when he started jumping pages. I laughed back. What can you do?
I thought about the guy across the room who had piped up in my defense. The relief when class ended was palpable in people's voices, as they rushed out of the room in a warm wind. I felt it all around me.