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I’m trying really hard not to zone out in my class. I just want to sleep. My head is propped on my right hand. I’m not taking notes, and I know I should be. My left hand periodically lifts the can of diet coke to my lips, and my eyes follow Oliver Cunningham, Professor of the Recording Arts, as he paces back and forth between his podium, where his notes are resting, and the soundboard that he has set up in the corner of the room. His straight brown hair, cut in a pageboy style, and his jeans and polo shirt make him look much younger than his resume would suggest. He has explained to us gains, EQ, filters, and faders with such enthusiasm you would think he was showing us a car he built from the ground up. I’m never going to use this information, and as hard as I try, I can’t seem to absorb anything he’s saying. The soundboard still looks as foreign to me as a space shuttle cockpit.
“We’ll have a quiz on the basics next week. Also, your studio observations are due by the end of the month.”
“Studio observations?” Sarah-Joe asks, half raising her hand but not waiting to be called on.
“Details are in the syllabus,” Professor Cunningham says. He’s annoyed, he doesn’t like Sarah-Joe and he doesn’t try to hide it. She asks too many questions too often. She interrupts his flow, and causes him to lose his train of thought. She is generally annoying, but, in this class, I’m thankful for her questions. It means I don’t have to ask them.
“Sorry, Professor,” Sarah-Joe says again, half standing this time as the rest of the class collects their books. “The instructions aren’t very clear. Do we need to go to a student recording session here at school? Are we interviewing the producer or engineer? Or just observing?”
“You can observe whoever will let you. If you go to the studios here, they don’t have the option to tell you to leave.” Several of the musicians in class chuckle. They’re all probably thinking about wanting to kick Sarah Joe out if she comes to one of the sessions they are working on in the school’s studios. “I would suggest,” Professor Cunningham adds, locking eyes with Sarah-Joe, “that you do not speak to anyone during the session unless they speak to you first. They are working. Consider how you would feel if someone came to your job and started asking all kinds of questions that kept you from getting your job done.”
Ouch. A few others in the class suppress giggles. That’s a bit harsh. Luckily, Sarah-Joe is completely oblivious to any type of subtle criticism. She also has never had a job, so she doesn’t understand what that would be like.
“Recording schedules are posted online, make sure you sign up before you show up. They only have to allow three observers, so don’t wait until the week before the paper is due, or you won’t get into a session.
“And how long should the paper be?” Sarah-Joe asks, sitting again. She’s scribbling notes.
“Single or double spaced?”
Professor Cunningham sighs. “Yes. Single or double-spaced. I don’t care. But if you double space it because you don’t have anything to say, I’m only going to give you half the credit.” His eyes scan the class, resting on me for a moment longer than I am comfortable with. “This isn’t a hard assignment people. Just do it.” His eyes are on me again, and I lift my head off my hand. “Addison, can I see you a moment please? The rest of you are free to go.”
As the class files out of the room I stay seated at my desk. When they’re gone, Professor Cunningham comes and leans on the desk next to mine.
“Addison. Is everything okay?”
I nod my head.
“Are you sick?”
“No,” I hear myself answer. The inflection in my voice sounds more like I’m asking a question than answering one.
“You seem to be struggling to stay awake. I know that you’re not on the technology track, but this information is just as necessary for you as it is for everyone else in this class. I’d appreciate it if you’d make a little more effort to be engaged. And not to fall asleep.”
I think for a minute. I’m sure I stayed awake through the whole class today. I consider arguing with him, but decide that I’m too tired. “I’m sorry. I work third shift twice a week. I had to work last night.” I hate the way the excuse sounds as it comes out of my mouth. The dog ate my homework. I swear I did it. I wait for the lecture that I’ve heard so many times. School is most important. Tell your boss you can’t work third shift anymore. Find another job.
“That sucks,” Professor Cunningham is back at the podium, shuffling his papers. “Any chance you can make sure those days are on the weekends?”
This was not the reaction I was expecting. “I’ve asked, but they still schedule me during the week sometimes. I’m sorry, I promise to do a better job of staying awake.”
“I’d appreciate that. Thanks.” He zips his portfolio shut and heads to the door. “See you Thursday.”