It’s been a semester and a half since I’ve started my college career and I hadn’t once been to a professor’s office hours prior to today. Since midterms ended, my theology professor has been asking us to, if we could, come conference with him at some point; it wasn’t mandatory, but strongly urged all the same.
I was scheduled to meet with him at 1:30pm today, and as the time drew closer, a sort of panic crept over me. What was I going to do? I’d never been to office hours. What does one say to a professor during these one-on-one sessions? And how was I supposed to find his office? I’d never even been inside the theology department building before, and I didn’t want to wander through the corridors like the inexperienced freshman that I am. At 1:20, I finally trudged out of my dorm and headed to his office.
Fortunately, I found the place with relative ease. When I got there, my professor immediately smiled and offered me a seat.
My theology professor–let’s call him Dr. J–is a highly knowledgeable fifty-some-year-old Englishman. His sense of fashion is a little off; he wears brown loafers, gray track pants (I think? They’re some kind of exercise pants), a button-down shirt with a tie, and as a top layer, what looks like a flannel shirt that is three size too large for his skinny frame. I suppose having a doctorate and tenure grants you the privilege to dress however you please.
Nonetheless, he’s a great guy.
As I took my seat, Dr. J immediately sprung the question, “Is it colder out there now than it was this morning?”
“Um…” I was a little surprised by the initiation of small talk, expecting that we’d dive straight into my academics instead. “Yeah, a bit. It’s windier, mostly.”
“Hmm, yes, wind does indeed make a nice day a bit nippy, doesn’t it?” he mused in his English accent. “At least we’ve some good sunlight, though. I rather dislike when it’s windy and rainy. I tend to take long walks outdoors most days, you see, but rainy days simply aren’t conducive to my activities. Tell me, if you must choose, would you take a rainy day or a windy day?”
Were we really having a conversation about the weather? I chuckled. “Windy day,” I said, “because at least you can escape the wind once you’re indoors. Walking through rain, though, you’re left dripping long after you’ve gone inside.”
“Yes, quite right,” he said oh-so-Britishly.
“Are we, uh, going to discuss my midterm grade?” I asked.
“Oh, that old thing,” Dr. J replied. “Well, you’ve got one of the highest grades in the class and you’re a stone’s throw from a good solid A. I haven’t much rush to discuss your academics, have you?”
“Not at all,” I said.
I always thought it was so strange when people would tell me stories about how they would go visit a professor during office hours and end up discussing an off-topic subject like Star Trek instead of anything actually related to class. How does one, I wondered, just visit a professor to have a chat about nothing at all?
Now here I am, telling the story of how I spent seven minutes during a fifteen minute appointment talking about inclement weather with an Englishman in a too-big flannel shirt.
That’s college for you.