By staff writer E.E. Southerby
Volume 64 – January 18, 2004
Now Playing: “Rusty Cage” by Johnny Cash
-Why is it that whenever I'm asleep and the phone rings, and the person on the other end asks me if I was asleep, I always lie and say “no, don't worry about it. I've been up for hours”? They can probably even hear me yawning into the mouthpiece.
-In a desperate attempt to generate humor for this column, I sat in on a first year computer science course. You know, the ones where they tell you how to move a mouse and how to open Windows. I figured watching dumb people try to turn on a computer would be a surefire ticket to some golden material, but really it's just boring. I wish stupid people were more entertaining. Like maybe if they fell down or electrocuted themselves while trying to find the power switch or something.
-How many postgraduate degrees does it take before you can successfully operate a classroom VCR and overhead projector? I've never seen a professor, allegedly the smartest person in the room, be able to find the rewind button or avoid blinding the entire class by pointing the damn projector lightbulb the wrong way. It's nice to see all those Ph.Ds are finally starting to pay off.
-There is nothing in the world that a professor can say that is more terrifying than “Form a group for a group project.” Right there, you know you're going to be spending the next month relentlessly arguing with classmates you can't stand over crap nobody cares about. And then the prof will usually try and justify this punishment by following it up with “Once you get out into the real world, you're going to be doing group projects all the time. Better get used to it.” Thanks, teacher! Way to talk me down from the ledge.
-Here's the truth about group projects: They've never worked. There has never, in the history of schooling, been a group of people who have contributed equally and put together their work to create a quality presentation. There's always one guy who's really angry and opinionated, and thinks everyone else's ideas are crap. This is the guy who would do all the work himself if he got the chance, but he's generally not that bright, so you don't want to actually let him take over the project. You'll notice that I said ‘he' and not ‘he or she', because, let's face it, girls aren't that angry and emotional about boring stuff like the treaty of Versailles. At least not 25 days out of the month.
-Another common character in the typical group is the worthless slacker. This is the person who sits idly by, not unlike plankton, and lets everyone else do the work for him. If the worthless slacker is asked to contribute something, they will typically say something so ridiculously dumb, either intentionally or otherwise, that they will then never be called upon by members of the group again. If you find yourself in a group and you're unsure which one of your members is the worthless slacker, ask which one of them is on a varsity sports team. Also, look for people with names like ‘Tad' or ‘Heathcliff'.
-The last psychotic personality type you're likely to encounter when you're forced into a groupwork environment is the paranoid worrier. This is the person who demands to meet up for four hours a day, every day, until the project is complete OR WE'LL NEVER GET IT DONE ON TIME OH NO! The paranoid worrier will also request hourly email updates, and will probably want your phone number so they can contact you in case of an emergency. I spend a good portion of my time trying to keep my telephone number a secret from people like this, so you can see how I would be troubled to be manacled to a paranoid worrier. Your best strategy when dealing with this type of person is to divert their attention so they have something else to worry about. Tell them you noticed someone following them home. Or kill their dog.
-Quote of the Moment: One of the more annoying aspects of group projects is that the larger the group, the less likely it is that every member will be free to work at the same time. People lead busy lives, you see. Of course, sometimes people just make up excuses that make them SOUND busy when in fact they actually aren't. Like when I asked my group if we could get together in two weeks, and one of them answered: “No, I don't think so. I'll probably have to work.” I'm like, ‘dude, I haven't even said what day yet. And somehow I don't think the Dairy Queen corporation will crumble without you at the helm.' Now I have to find a new group.
-I'm fascinated by the speed at which people form groups. The prof will start to say “form a gro-” and I cringe and look around and everyone's already magically grouped themselves together. It's like they don't even care who's in their group, they just don't want to be left out. I wish people would show a little commitment first, you know? Like maybe finding out a little bit about the other people, and whether or not you want to spend the next month of your life trapped in the library with them. I hate that people form groups faster than a Britney Spears annulment. That's right, I can do topical humor just like anybody else.
-When I was in elementary school, and the teacher handed out report cards with comments on them, mine always said “Does not play well with others.” I used to think she wrote this because I'd come into class attempting to bite off people's ears after spending the entirety of the previous evening playing violent video games. And, while this may have some deep-seeded kernel of truth to it, I think we can all agree that the real reason she wrote this is because she knew how I would do in a group project somewhere down the line. I should bite them all.
-As the contents of this column have already implied, my new life as a member of a group project has forced me to begin abusing prescription narcotics. In a way, this has had negative consequences, such as my lack of motor and bladder control, and the loss of my ability to write “comedy”. On the plus side, though, it's only a matter of time before I get my own right-wing conservative syndicated radio show. I just hope they let me work alone.