Tuesday, May 08, 2012

An Attentive Audience

Having finished our tour of the art museum, I led my group of students up a few blocks to take the shuttle to our dinner location.  The shuttle is about halfway full, and we pile in the back.  I instinctively brace myself as the shuttle takes off, and the mountain kids naturally topple into one another giggling.

After a few stops, a disheveled man enters the shuttle.  He's ranting about women and nicotine.  I can sense my students' discomfort and curiosity, so I give them the "It's okay.  Be cool and just ignore him" look.

As the shuttle departs, my students topple over again and he continues to declare his medical/feminist opinions to the crowd that avoids making eye contact with him.  The shuttle shifts, putting the setting sun directly in my eyes.  I pull down my sunglasses from on top of my head and ruffle my hair.  This catches the man's eye.

"Ooh, so sexy with the sunglasses," he says, looking me over.  "Your sunglasses, you, you're so sexy."

I'm pointedly ignoring him, but I can tell my students very much are not.  Any distraction their own conversations, drinks, or cell phones offered are now completely obliterated by the crazy man hitting on their teacher right in front of them.

"Sexy sunglasses..." he says, slurring the last "s" in a serpentine trailing off.  He straightens up, coming to a decision.  "I'm single," he announces.

One of my students snorts.

"I'm single," he repeats.  "And I'm a millionaire.  I'm a millionaire, I'm an alcoholic, and I'm single."

I'm not looking at my students, but I can tell they are about to give in to fits of laughter.  I make a subtle, low gesture with my hand and the students stifle themselves.  The man continues to list these qualities in-between declarations of my and my sunglasses' attractiveness.

As the bus pulls up to the stop, the man reiterates his selling points for me one more time as he gets off the bus.  "I'm a millionaire, I'm single, I'm an alcoholic."  Then, just as the students are about to let the laughter loose, the man steps up to the window of the bus.  He stands on tiptoe on the sidewalk, pressing his fingers and his mouth on the glass.  "And I have a small penis!" he whispers to me through the window.

The bus pulls away, and my students lose it.

We got off the shuttle a few more stops down, and the students had a grand time teasing me.  Later, when we meet up with some additional students at the theater, the art museum group was quick to tell them all about it.

"Dang it!" the drama students exclaim.  "Why don't we get to see things like that when we go downtown with you?"

"Wait," one of them declares, "Didn't you get hit on in New York, too?"

I confirm it.  As they laugh, a student declares, "Man!  You have the best stories and you're not even old!" Another student says, "Why does that keep happening to you, Ms. Waterhouse?"

I tilted my head to one side and wrinkle my brow.  "I'm confused, Cali," I say playfully.  "Haven't you figured out how attractive I am?"

The students laugh as we head into the theater.  "It's funny that guys hit on you like that," one girl comments as we take our seats.

"You do seem to attract some crazies," her friend agrees.

"Yeah!" the first girl continues.  "Maybe it's the vibes you give off."

"I give off crazy-vibes?" I ask.

"No," they both say.  The first girl amends it.  "You give off... drama teacher vibes."

I laugh.  "I don't think those will attract men I'd like to date."

"Oh, no!" they said.  "They do.  You'll attract... a drama teacher!"  They pause.  "Who's hot."  Pause.  "And a guy."  Another pause.  "And straight."  They smile, having figured out the solution.

"Riiight," I say.  "Somehow I think the chances of that are quite small."

I change the topic by noting the upcoming season listed in the program.  One of the shows is a relatively new David Ives adaptation of Mark Twain's Is He Dead?  I point that play out to the student next to me, since she is a growing Ives fan.  The white-haired man to my left nudges me.

"I'm related to him," he says.

"David Ives?" I ask.

"No, Mark Twain."  He then proceeds to give me a run-down of his genealogical connections to the author.  I comment politely and turn back to my program, but the man continues to talk to me, asking questions about the play we're about to see.  I give simple, polite replies, distracted by the overpowering smell of cigarettes coming from him and my desire to focus on my students rather than this stranger.  I note that had I been out with my friends, they would have immediately picked up on the "Rescue me!  Rescue me from this conversation!" signals I was giving out.  Instead my students were completely absorbed in their own scenes and thereby missed yet another proof of the vibes they claim I give off.  Finally, the house lights dimmed and the man's conversation trailed off, as did the conversations of my students around me. 

For once I was glad they don't always paying attention to their teacher.

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