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Excuse Me But
by Mark Trodd 
10/29/12
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EXCUSE ME BUT…

Wave after wave of drop down seats filled the rectangular lecture theater, enough to accommodate 200 students. Each new row went higher than the one before it, until the last row met the back wall. The main entrance was at the front, to the left of the lecture platform. Most students preferred to use the rear entrance near the kitchen because it was easier to spot empty seats from above. Besides, that’s where the coffee was.

I arrived early to avoid the last minute rush, grabbed a coffee from the kitchen and went straight to my favorite seat in the middle of the back row. At least there I didn’t have to stand up every time someone needed to get to a seat. Suddenly, rush hour was upon us.

A crescendo of shuffling feet, snapping seats, unfolding desk lids and jumbled conversations filled the air as students streamed through the blue door from the kitchen. The ability of one student to pull out the desktop and drop down the spring-loaded seat, while carrying her books and successfully balancing a full cup of coffee, was truly inspirational.

“I thought we agreed to keep the coffee cups in the kitchen,” said the lecturer, as she entered the room carrying a black briefcase. I discreetly placed my empty cup in my bag as she removed her notes and parked her briefcase on a small table near the main entrance.

As the last student found a seat the lecturer cleared her throat. This was the signal that our two-hour ordeal – a marathon of listening, note taking, daydreaming, paper shuffling, crowd observation and the quest for the most comfortable seating position – was about to begin. A sea of yawns, provoked by a long day, swept across the room as everyone tried to switch to student mode. Thank goodness for caffeine.

“Let’s get started”, said the lecturer “I don’t want to be here until midnight. This is the third lecture in our series on...”

Suddenly, the lecturer stopped - distracted by movement – to watch a male student pick up her briefcase and turn to leave the way he came. Everyone was stunned by the shear audacity of his actions. The potential threat of ‘never seeing my property again’ shocked the lecturer into action.

“Excuse me, but that’s my briefcase you’re taking.”

The offending student froze. His plan to be invisible and discreet had failed. One question begged an answer. What would this red-faced thief say now?

“I came to collect my briefcase. I left it behind in the last lecture.”

“But, that’s mine,” said the lecturer. “Can I have it back please?”

“Is this yours?” shouted another student sitting two rows in front of me. She held up an identical black briefcase.

Without saying a word, the noticeably confused student handed the lecturer her briefcase and promptly retrieved his property from the back. His face glowed with embarrassment as he flew passed me at lightning speed and disappeared into the kitchen. Meanwhile, the lecturer had hidden her briefcase behind the wooden lectern. Everyone turned and waited for her response.

“I hope I’ve got the right briefcase,” she smiled. “Your essays are inside.”

Giggles and laughter swept across the room but quickly degenerated into more yawning.

“This is the third lecture in our series on the book of Acts.”

Mark Trodd
troddsy@bigpond.com

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