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There Are Many Ways To Reach Your Students

, , , , , | Friendly | June 30, 2021

Over a decade ago, when I was nineteen, I attended a college in which the various buildings were quite spaced out through the downtown area; there was no real central campus. This meant that, one summer day, as I stopped to get lunch while walking to my next class, I passed a city bus stop just outside the sandwich shop I was heading for. A man at the bus stop saw me approach, smiled in a casual, friendly way, said something like, “Hey, looking good!” and held up one hand for a high-five.

Call me clueless, but without thinking, I high-fived him back. Maybe it just seemed the path of least resistance, or maybe as a girl who had literally never been hit on once in her life, it was a bit flattering. Either way, it was over in a moment, and I was off into the sandwich shop for my lunch.

Then, halfway through the “What else would you like on that?” process, the employee making my sandwich paused, his face suddenly serious, as he looked past me out the restaurant window.

Employee: “Hey, uh, don’t look now, but there’s a guy outside who’s, like, really staring at you.”

Without turning to fully look, I worked out that the guy I’d high-fived was indeed staring nonstop at me through the window behind me, and I informed the employee that, no, I did not know him, and we both proceeded to act as though we hadn’t noticed him. Internally, I was now extremely nervous, of course. What the heck had I just set off? What was I going to do now? There was only one door to the place, so I would have to pass this guy if I left. As the minutes passed and I paid for my sandwich, the guy apparently did not intend to enter the restaurant, content to just watch me through the glass, probably waiting for me to leave.

Panicking a bit, and having no prior experience with directly creepy men, I chose to sit inside the mostly empty restaurant and eat, facing away from the guy and pretending I didn’t see him. The whole time, he never came inside. I believe the employee kept an eye out for me, too, but there were no further actions taken. After finishing my food, I stayed put and looked at my phone, still steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the guy’s presence, but with that deep sick feeling of panic in the pit of my stomach.

Then, I got a text from a classmate. I’d spent so much time in the sandwich shop that class had started, and my professor was wondering where I was. They were small classes, my professor was a sweetheart, and it was not like me to be late or miss class. I filled them in on the situation, told them I was too nervous to leave the shop, and was immediately told:

Classmate: “Hang on for just another minute! [Professor] is coming to get you!”

And now I must explain a few things about this professor. He is probably the kindest, gentlest soul I have ever known. He once described himself as “Bobby Hill” — from the show “King of the Hill” — a sweet, sensitive, non-athletic, creative child from a family of incurious rednecks. He was fairly short and somewhat overweight, and he kept his hair quite long. He was beloved in his department for encouraging his students and nurturing their creativity and growth, and he was also well known for being a huge fan of a certain very cutesy cartoon character mostly aimed at young girls. He would even dress as this character every Halloween.

So, this is the man who did not hesitate to hop in his car and drive the four or five blocks to my location and charge into the sandwich shop. His timing could not have been better. Since I was watching out for him, I gathered my stuff as I saw him coming, and as soon as he entered, I stood to leave. Together, we started walking right back out the door, just as the guy from outside decided to finally come in. We passed him on the way out and booked it down the sidewalk.

The guy actually followed us, staying a few feet behind, through crosswalks and down the block. After less than a minute of this, my professor turned on a dime, got up in this dude’s face — which was about a foot higher than my professor’s — and spat out, “Can I help you?”

The guy mumbled something and FINALLY backed off. My professor later said the guy had reeked of booze, something I’d never picked up on. We made it safely back to my professor’s adorable little Prius, where I got to deep-breathe through the remains of my scare while enjoying [Character] seat covers and floor mats on the way back to class, and I was about the most grateful to someone I’ve ever been.

I always feel like such an idiot looking back on that incident, and I’m fully aware it could have been much worse! That professor will always be my hero!


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