Though it may not seem like it at the outset of this story, this is in memorial of my friend Jack. He was an amazing man who was taken from us far too early in life. Three years ago, during Christmas break, he was involved in a car accident that took his life. This may not be the most memorable Jack story, but it’s the one that always comes to mind when his name is mentioned:
Junior year of college, JD, Steffan and I signed up for the same Honors course.
Though there were a veritable plethora of reasons for this, the following were the most important:
1) The class would be held in the Honors Forum. Which meant that instead of a stuffy classroom with rigid desks, we would be seated in a living room environment with our own kitchenette. Plush couches, rocking recliners, pillows, throws and a never-ending supply of cookies and juice.
2) Dr. Adams was teaching the course. He was notoriously easy. As long as you showed even the slightest modicum of effort on something, no matter how wrong it was, he gave you an A.
3) It was a Science Fiction class. We had no love for the genre, but knew that the readings would be more interesting than the Philosophy or Ethics classes and that at least once a week we could sleep on the couch while Dr. Adams had the class view clips from Bladerunner, Pitch Black and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
4) It also helped that the class was at 11:00 AM. Prime college time. Late enough that you could sleep in, early enough that you didn’t waste your whole afternoon.
Two weeks had gone by when Jerry (Dr. Adams) decided that we should dissect certain passages of Childhood’s End in “teams”.
Teams – a term professors use to try and trick college students into feeling like adults instead of third-graders who’ve been placed into reading groups.
Since the class had 18 people (very large for an Honors group - - guess we were all wanting to be slackers that year), we were to be divided into 6 groups of 3. Fate was with us that day. I had gotten to class early and saved a couch. JD and Steffan were on either side of me when Jerry began his divisions. He pointed his finger at us and said “You, you and you. You’re Team One.”
JD, in a vain attempt at humor, looked up forlornly and exclaimed “Why do we have to have a girl in our group?”
Jerry looked pointedly at JD and Steffan and then said “You guys are rowdy. I think she’ll be a calming influence on you.”
Cue the confused look from me. Followed immediately by dumbfounded stares of the entire class and then Steffan saying, “Meghan??? A calming influence? Ummm, Jerry, did you take your medications this morning?”
This is why I loved Honors classes. Not only was this type of banter condoned, it was encouraged. They wanted us to feel that we were equals with our instructors. Peers instead of lowly students to exalted professors. They thought it would facilitate more enlightened and open discussions. Instead it just promoted pure chaos - - but it was fun, none-the-less.
Jerry, ever the optimist, came back with: “Yeah, she can be a little rowdy herself. But her thought processes are good, her writing is impeccable and she seems to keep a pretty tight reign on you two when you’re in here.”
This was interrupted by JD making the whinnying sound of a horse followed by an up-and-down movement of his head.
“Guys, you both know if I’d let you pick your own group, you would have picked each other. Quit being assholes and let me get on with the rest of the class.”
JD smartly saluted him, I smacked JD’s leg and Steffan just sat there shaking his head in mock dismay.
Though, in hindsight, it probably wasn’t mock. Steffan and I both have very strong opinions about writing styles and interpretations of readings. He was probably worrying that we were going to butt heads on a few issues and that I would try and take control. Which, of course, I would. Have you met me? Control freak, extraordinaire.
Twenty minutes later, Jack entered class. Not only was he severely tardy, he was carrying enough food to feed an army: Two Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches, one twelve pack of nuggets, two snickers bars and the largest coke I’ve ever seen.
A little back story – There was a girl that lived in our dorm named Laura McAffey. Laura was, at least, 300 lbs. Now, we probably would have tried to work up some sympathy for her if this were medically related. But it wasn’t. She was just a fat, lazy cow. The most active she got was stomping around to the polka music she played at unbelievably high volumes in her room.
And her eating habits were worse than atrocious. We once sat in the lobby and watched her eat an entire jar of peanut butter – WITH HER HANDS. Her hands, I tell you!
So anyway, Jack walks in - late as can be and loaded down with more food than a cattle drive’s chuck wagon. I, naturally, could not let this go without comment. Regardless of my “calming” influence on the males.
“So nice of you to join us, Jack. Well now, that’s a lot of food! Who do you think you are? Laura McAffey?!” The entire class bursts into laughter, including Jack – who had one of the most beautiful smiles you could ever imagine.
JD, never one to miss an opportunity to prove himself right, looked at Jerry and over the din of laughter stated: “Yeah, Jerr, SHE’s going to reign us in! Calming influence my ass!”
Jerry never regained control of the class that day. And that’s the last time I can remember seeing Jack's smile.