Why does my preceptor eat a croissant every precept? Don't get me wrong, I'm excited that my preceptor never experiences hunger pains in class. Really I am. And I doubt that he will anytime soon — he eats a croissant every precept. Maybe he doesn't have any other time to eat a croissant. Or maybe he's French. I mean, I really don't mind that he eats in class or even that a distinct crescent moon of grease was visible on my mi-term paper. Who would want a malnourished preceptor? To be honest, it makes me rest a little easier knowing that my guy intakes a solid supply of calories to allow him to teach and walk and push things.
Yeah, and I think it's only affected me adversely once. He was taking this really enormous bite while conducting a review session. I remember him saying something about "Dwadafatty Toadsenhimer" being instrumental in bringing World War II to a successful end. I devoted half an essay to Dwadafatty. Turns out he really said "Dwight D. Eisenhower." I couldn't tell. I was dodging the croissant shavings firing from his mouth. So, yeah, I guess at times it does kind of bother me.
It's not only him, though. There's this girl in one of my classes. Every morning she sits in the same seat and drinks out of the same mug. It's the one she got at the career fair. I think it's from a consulting firm. It's bright green with black writing. It stands about six inches tall in a light wind. It steals lunch money from poor English orphans and defaces national landmarks in my nightmares. Now is she that thirsty that she can't make it through class without a beverage? "Oh, I just can't take any more notes professor. Oh, wait, my beverage — here . . . (sip) . . . now I'm refreshed, continue with the lecture! Almost got dehydrated, you know."
I think it comes down to this. Many students, and preceptors, too, find the need to create comfort zones in the academic arena. Remember elementary school, when everyone had his or her own individual desk? Those were the days, when school had personal charm and asbestos crawling through the walls and ceilings. When milk was ten cents and the lunch lady would show you her tattoo if you asked nicely. And within the bubbly, buoyant classroom sat a stylized, private desk for each student. You know, full of all the important items. The Valentine's Day card from Sally Sue Soapahaney. The collection of pennies, left over from lunch. The coating of dried glue — also left over from lunch. (I think it was in the stromboli.)
So where's our personal, intimate space at Princeton? And I'm not talking about those cramped desks in McCosh 50, because they go from snuggly to restraining order faster than Michael Jackson at a McDonald's Playland. This is why people bring their croissants and Snapples and Western omelets to class. They're forging a home amidst the barrage of such foreign, unfriendly words as "despotism," "genre," and "cyclohexane." They're recreating the home they once had in school. They've been long without their trusted blankey and Snoopy underwear, but they still understand the comforts of life.
Does this mean that the rest of us who battle through class without food or drink are better adjusted to the heinous spittle of sterile academia? Actually, no. It means we're lazy. It means we don't get up twenty minutes earlier than we need to or that we take showers rather than sprint from the bed to the student center. But you'd better believe this — we are eyeing your food, and when you're not looking, or when you're pulling that pouch of raspberry herbal tea out of your backpack, don't be surprised that the cherry Pop Tart is gone. It was tasty. Oh, but to that girl who eats carrots and celery stalks in Politics 210 — don't worry, we don't want that. Eric Bland is from Richmond, Va. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.