A Pitiful Attempt To Be Understanding

, , , , , | Learning | May 14, 2021

I’m a college sophomore. I traveled abroad during the winter break. A couple of days into the new semester, I come down with a rather intense case of chickenpox. I never had it as a kid, so it knocks me out. I am basically stuck in bed with a head that feels like it’s going to explode and blisters everywhere, including inside my mouth and throat.

I call my department and fax them my doctor’s recommendation to stay away from the rest of humanity for a couple of weeks. They tell me not to worry; they will inform all my professors of my absence and I can make up any work as soon as I come back. I am incredibly grateful.

When I come back, I make sure to visit all my professors during office hours so I can catch up. All of them are incredibly gracious and helpful except my linguistics professor, who stands me up during his office hours.

Unable to find him anywhere, I go to his class. To my surprise, there is a test today. I very meekly go up to him and explain my situation.

Me: “I have been sick and absent for the past two weeks and had no idea there was a test. I don’t even know what material is covered on this test. The department assured me I could make up my absences as soon as I came back.”

The professor responds in the most condescending tone you can imagine.

Professor: “Oh, what a pity. Come to my office tomorrow and take the test.”

Me: “Professor, what material is being covered by the test?” 

Professor: “Oh. It’s chapter two and three.”

I go home, frantic, and spend all night devouring chapters two and three. I’m not a linguistics major, so this is not my cup of tea.

The next morning, I have barely slept, but I feel ready to at least pass the test. I walk to my professor’s office confidently. He hands me the test, and I sit down.

When I look at the paper in front of me, I recognize nothing. Absolutely nothing I studied is on this exam. I walk up to the professor.

Me: “Excuse me, sir. Is this the right test? The test you gave yesterday?”

Professor: “Oh, yes!”

Me: “I studied chapters two and three from the book, but they don’t have anything to do with what’s in the test.”

Professor: “Well, what I included in the test was all discussed in class and written on the board.”

Me: “But, sir, I was absent for two weeks due to illness, as I reminded you yesterday.”

He looks at me for a second.

Professor: “Oh, what a pity.”

He turned his glance away from me.

I went back to the desk, did what I could, and turned the test in, completely sure that I had failed. I had.

Knowing that I would probably fail the class, I decided to drop it and concentrate on catching up in the classes I know I could do well in. When I went back to my professor so he could sign the required form to allow me to do just that, he just looked at me and said, “Oh, what a pity,” as he signed.

I did retake the class and got a great grade. Linguistics is still not my cup of tea, but at least the second time around I got a professor that taught me more linguistics than “pity”.

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