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So Apparently I’m a Complete Slacker

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  • January 19, 2013

I attended college at a very turbulent time in my life, and though it resulted in many negative experiences, it also provided me with great stories to laugh about and share with others. Today, I’d like to tell you about this one class that I had… I don’t remember the name, exactly, but it can be best described as a physical education class that focused on nutrition. In case you haven’t read my previous posts, I’ll set the stage by explaining that it took me somewhere between 1.5 to 2.5 hours to get to the campus in the morning, and the same at night. Because of this, most of my efforts were focused on my core Computer Science classes – the others weren’t my priority, but I certainly wanted to get decent marks.

A dog running on a treadmill. Relevance to this post? Cardio. Figured this was better than having two boring gym photos in the same post.

Photo by Scott Adams.

So this gym class was actually simple, but varied. We did some weight training, cardio, figured out how to plan completely balanced meals, and were even taught to calculate our levels of fat in probably the most uncomfortable way ever: we measured our fat flaps. Yep, fat flap measurement is a thing, folks – there’s a better name for it, of course, but it evades me at this moment. I’m also fairly certain that nothing can meet the eloquence of “fat flap measurement,” so I won’t bother to find the right term. You’re welcome. But, altogether, it was a standard physical education class – I liked certain things, and wasn’t totally enthusiastic with others. However, I carried the torch like a good college kid, and always felt I did a pretty decent job in that class.

Fate had another plan, it seems. In general, I get along with most people I meet – but this teacher, we’ll call him Franz, was a bit different. It’s not that I had anything against the man, but I just felt that I didn’t really connect with him like I did other teachers. In college, I always tried to know my professors to at least a basic degree. My logic was the following: if the teacher knew me, they would be less likely to give me bad marks. Now, keep in mind, I wasn’t out to deceive or give myself an unfair advantage. I simply wanted my teachers to know how my brain worked so that they would understand that deep down, I meant well, and actually cared about my results. I mean, sure, I didn’t give my 100% in non-Computer Science classes, but I was still aiming to get decent marks, so there was effort invested. And the way I saw it, it was easier to flunk a guy that they never met and seemed to keep to himself, rather than “Matt Refghi,” the guy who’s in Computer Science and who appreciated weight training, and actually cared about the class – despite keeping to himself. But, alas, Franz was a weird one to get along with… so I mostly kept to myself and did everything that was asked of me. I wasn’t getting top marks, but I was doing decently in most assignments.

A guy bench pressing at a gym, with a spotter behind him. I didn't have a spotter, but this picture captures the general mood of a gym.

Photo by Jason Lengstorf.

Then there was this one weight training class where we had to do bench pressing, among other things. When it was my turn, I found an area that wasn’t being used, and did my reps. The teacher had said that we could take 1-2 minute breaks in between sets, and since I was particularly tired that day, I was very adamant about using that time. So I would do a set, then sit, and monitor the clock. Though I never sat idle for more than 2 minutes at a time, it seemed that Franz had a tendency look my way only when I was resting, not when I was doing my reps. At one point, he even stopped by and asked me if I was doing anything, and I assured him that I was. But he just kept looking at the wrong moments. I laughed at the luck I was having, but I knew deep down that I had done absolutely everything that I was asked, and that I had followed his rules. My timing wasn’t even slightly off, by the way – I was taking 2 minute breaks, then immediately returning to my reps – no slacking. Unfortunately, Franz always seemed to look at the wrong time.

That was the first hint of trouble, in my eyes. Then came one of the field trips – we were to hike a local mountain, and do these treasure hunt type challenges while there. Given that I lived far away from the city, I had to get up really early to leave for such an event. Still living with my parents, I went to look in their fridge to see what was available to eat. In a hurry, and having found no appealing options, I prepared something really basic: two peanut butter sandwiches. I then ventured to Montreal, and proceeded to fulfill my hiking obligations. Since I didn’t spend much time in Montreal those days, I just did a combination of metro plus taxi to get me to where I needed to go that day. (When stressed, I often prefer simplicity at a cost, rather than complicating my life with bus schedules and stuff like that.) It was a rough hike for a guy who spent most of his time staring into a computer (especially back then), but I did it… even if it involved plenty of back and forth to wear us out. At lunch, the whole class got together to eat at a particular location on the mountain. Satisfied with my progress, I chewed like the triumphant computer nerd that I was, but then caught sight of Franz’s face.

A peanut butter sandwich on a plate.

Photo by yaybiscuits123.

Peanut butter sandwiches, two of them. Remember how I said Franz taught us NUTRITION? What’s nutritious about a lunch that comprises solely of two peanut butter sandwiches? Just from his expression, I understood: in that small moment, he had proof that I had not applied the stuff he taught in his class (building a nutritionally balanced meal). Once again, I proceeded to have a laugh internally, and tried to just shrug it off. I completed the day’s tasks, and arrived home where I plugged myself straight back into that glowing box. But you know what? I completed the hike, that day – Franz or not.

A sign that says "Stress Reduction," followed by as large circle that says "Bang Head Here." Funny directions are listed below it.

Photo by Eamon Curry.

Then… the marks came in. Know what I got? 60%. SIXTY. PERCENT. You know, the lowest possible passing grade. I knew for a fact that I deserved to have more than that – after all, I remembered most of my grades from my assignments. In an effort to understand, I thought to back to where it could have gone wrong, and I always came back to the weight lifting incident, and the double peanut butter lunch. In those moments, he probably felt that he understood the essence of my being – a guy who didn’t really care, and just did whatever he needed to do to pass. He misunderstood, of course, but I began to see the 60% as what it probably was: Franz giving me the bird. He probably knew that he couldn’t fail me because I had the good grades, but he didn’t want me to do well either. There’s such significance in that specific grade; he made me pass, but only that… not a trickle more.

I was absolutely certain that I didn’t deserve such a shitty grade… but I was tired of fighting. I had way too much stress in my life back then, and my papers at home weren’t all that organized. The college allowed students to dispute their grades, but it was a gamble of sorts – three teachers would re-evaluate the grades, and a new grade would be elected. If the three teachers agreed that the grade should be lower, that would be the law. I had previously filed a dispute for another class, and it took my grade from a high 60 to a mid 80 – so I was confident in my instincts. But unfortunately, I wasn’t organized enough to gather all of my old assignments from that class, and I was stressed enough as it was, so I never disputed it. I also knew that my effort wasn’t as significant as it would have been for a core Computer Science class, so the potential gain was only about 10-15%. Still, to this day, whenever I see the list of my grades, I picture a tiny Franz next to the 60%, flipping me off. As always, it’s always better to laugh about such things – can you imagine the chances of him always seeing the worst possible moments of my performance? This world’s hilarious, at times.