Because it makes very little sense for me to take part in it, for my daily English hour I am sent instead to the Computer Science lab. “Lab” is perhaps a little too indulgent of a name. I’d consider it more appropriate to term it “attic”, even though, strictly speaking, it’s not really one. It’s on the second floor, in the draftiest area, well-lit but frequently covered in a fine layer of dust. Last year, during a rainstorm, an entire panel of the ceiling fell through. The computers are older than some of the kids, pockmarked, bulky beasts that take between two to thirty minutes to start up, depending on connection speeds, the condition of the cables and a third very mystical condition no one has as of yet been able to pinpoint.
I am rather fond of the Computer Science attic. I chose Biology over Computer Science this year, so I don’t get to see much of it anymore. There are usually more computers than students, so the one at the back (which I call Ol’ Faithful or Ol’ Unfaithful depending on how fast it’s running that day) is pretty much reserved for me. Ol’ Faithful/Unfaithful is my favorite because, despite the cracked modem and the broken switch on the screen, the keyboard is in excellent shape. Shiny, black, rounded edges, a pleasing pop! when you press a key – it’s great stuff.
I don’t do any really productive work in the Computer Science attic. Since I finish off the projects assigned to me quickly, I spend the majority of the time browsing Wikipedia. Browsing Wikipedia is a wonderful thing. The endless trail of “See also” items! The little known facts of sushi, Fitzgerald and the sinking of the RMS Lusitania! The surprisingly useful trivia! The excerpts of doctoral theses, poetry anthologies and various books! The occasional literary gem! The satisfaction of editing a minor grammatical error on the History of Human Rights page! Wikipedia, like clean feet, shiny glass panes and almost perfectly round circles, makes me happy in a way that is difficult to explain to people. In fact, most things about me are difficult to explain to people. Today, for example, I saw a poster some fifth-graders made about “The Little Prince”, which they credited to Antoine de Saint, who is actually named Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. I don’t know why I reacted quite so vehemently to the exclusion of part of the author’s last name (I went as far as to stab the poster with the tip of my finger, quite irrational behavior indeed), but I do know it perplexed my conversational partner quite a bit.
This isn’t the only thing that seems to perplex. My voyages to the Computer Science attic confuse my fellow classmates as well. It’s been five years since the trips started, and still I’m confronted by kids asking what I’m doing there, either sheepishly or aggressively, never something in between. “Well,” I usually say, “my English level is too high to be taking an English as a Foreign Language class, so I’m doing some work up here instead.” I’ve considered answering with something outrageous (“I’m filing the director’s tax returns!”), but considering that this is a school environment, and I have zero ability to pull off a convincing a sarcastic remark, that’s probably more trouble than it’s worth.
Other than these occasional questions, I don’t usually talk to the students I’m with in the Computer Science lab, though I know most of them by name. There’s a rather curious exception, however: when I walk in, and when I leave, a voice from somewhere in the mass rings out: “Buenos días, Emma” and “Adios, Emma”. I am pretty sure the person in question is male, and a bit younger than me, maybe by three or four years. I don’t know how he’s managed to remember my name, or how he’s concealing himself in the crowd so well. Must be magic.
In any case, now, when I enter and leave rooms, I hear “Buenos días, Emma” and “Adios, Emma” in my head. It makes me feel comfortable and well taken care of and just thoroughly at peace, like I’m zooming along on a convenient moving sidewalk, or levitating a few millimeters off the ground, or just generally acting like a happy, non-angsty teenager. I am not quite sure how a customary greeting/farewell cycle instigated this kind of emotional response, but hey, I’ve known for a while now that I do weird stuff, and said weird stuff doesn’t make my life any harder. Quite the contrary in fact, and I figure I might as well stick with stuff that works.
And that concludes today’s segment of THINGS EMMA WRITES ABOUT WHEN WHAT SHE REALLY WANTS TO DO IS MAKE DEVILED EGGS BUT THERE IS NO MAYONNAISE IN THE HOUSE.