I’m Not Listening

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Eight

I’ve made up my mind that I will not listen in the meeting that starts in fifteen minutes, but they will think I am listening because I have this incredible knack for scrunching my eyebrows together like I’m concentrating, a behavior I adopted from my sixth-grade teacher Ms. Clemens. One look from her eyebrows stopped spitballs midair. No need to write “I will not shoot spit balls” on the chalk board or assume the position for a paddling.

I will also fake listening by nodding, bobbing my head up and down like one of those little plastic drinking birds we bought in a gift shop when we stopped to pee before getting on I-75 in Florida after visiting Sea World and the now defunct Six Gun Territory. I’ll also fake listening by typing on my iPad the same way I took notes on Faulkner in graduate school. I’d simply written and written and written until I couldn’t breathe and wanted to scream because my attention span wasn’t as long as a fifty-line Faulknerian, or would that be Faulkneresque, sentence.

It had been thirty years of Ph.D. life, listening to the same conversations by different people at different universities. The first agenda item in the upcoming meeting will be about a forthcoming accreditation visit and charting out faculty credentials to ensure a check mark, just like K-12 homework.  I can count on one hand the departments I know that have issues, but each of these department heads thinks the other has the issue, and come check mark time, all of them will get a note in red, once done by hand with an ink pen and now errors are typed on an Excel sheet and highlighted in red on a color printer.

Next will be the Dean—I always think of Flip Wilson’s “Here comes the Judge” to drone on about department head evaluations, this year in a new format that won’t be as difficult as last year’s, one borrowed from a peer institution that passed a vote by their snoring senate in flying colors, and whether department heads plagiarize the info on their plagiarized evaluation form, like their students dumping quotes, omitting in text citations, and stripping their papers naked of all commas like they shed their clothes at Greek parties on weekends, nothing will come of it because the Judge gives everyone a free pass.

We will top this meeting off with some special updates about the budget process that reminds me of the same nothingness the existentialists wrote about. Declining enrollment and cuts from the state will reduce revenue, except for bonuses to coaches and executive leadership that will come from private money, and then there may be an incremental tuition raise that is passed along as inflation and rising costs to students and their families just like their Washington counterparts do to their huddled masses.

When it’s over, I will have written about not listening, and I will follow my parents training and stop by the restroom before jumping into my car and merging into the commuter traffic for a Pac-Man race home, dodging potholes and easing onto the shoulder to avoid being sideswiped by semis, the drivers of which are texting and driving.

Retirement won’t come soon enough. I’ll be poor again since the state and federal governments continue to get their unfair share, but I will, like Elvis, have left the building. Best of luck to the foolish dreamer who takes my place.

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