No More Pencils, No More Books...
There’s got to be a better way to do this. I tried again, “Though they might, at first glance, seem multifaceted and layers-deep, human motives tend to draw from a mere handful of needs…” A stadium-seated, stone sea of glassy, sleep-deprived eyes stared back at me. Many of the students dropped pencils and slouched in their chairs, obviously hungover, while others were still too drunk to be hungover for a few hours yet. Some, it seemed, were already beginning the work of tomorrow’s hangover, still in its infancy. I wonder if I should talk to the school board about making AA meetings a mandatory credit.
“Human motivators! You’re humans, what motivates you? What’s motivating you to be here right now? Let’s take a look. Well, obviously getting an A in this course, which will fulfill your credits to get a degree, which will allow you to get a job to provide for a family… so that when you near the end of your journey you will feel as though you’ve left a legacy behind to continue the fruitless march of procreation that rolls on without end or meaning…” I trailed off staring at all the blank faces twisted in expressions of mental constipation. Come on Henry, they’re just kids you cynical prick. I closed my eyes and took a breath.
“Okay…who went out last night?” Not a hand. “C’mon, it’s…8:32 a.m. on a Friday, raise your hand if you went to a bar, or a party, or a friend’s house anytime last night.” Every single hand stood erect. “Good! Okay, now keep your hand up if you had at least one drink while you were out – the alcoholic sort that is. Don’t worry, you’re secret’s safe with me.” Every hand went down. Shit. “Let’s try this again.” I pulled a flask of Glenlivet out of my breast pocket, raised it to the class, “Salude!” and draught long from the tin. The 400-seated stadium classroom was packed with 19 and 20-year-olds looking on in shock as their professor gulped 18-year old scotch right at the podium. “Okay, now you’ve got dirt on me. I won’t tell if you won’t. So, raise your hand if you’ve had at least one drink in the past twelve hours.”
Every hand shot up with a roar of giggles and taunts of “lightweight, you know you can’t handle a beer!” and “Last twelve hours? Try last twelve minutes!"
I smiled. At least I’ve got their attention.
“Why’d you drink, you think?” Hands dropped. “Relax, this isn’t an after school special, I’m just trying to show you something. Raise your hand if you can tell me why you had your first drink last night.”
A powerfully-built Alpha male in the back row wearing a PKE tank top and neon Wayfarers shouted, “Cause it lubricates every…” he paused to flex his biceps at the sorority girls a few rows away “…and I mean every, situation.” He smirked the same way he’d probably practiced in the mirror every day since he was ten. The girls cracked up laughing along with much of the packed house.
“Thanks, Jessie! Our brave volunteer is correct. Many people drink to better their chances of passing on their genetic code. Legacy. Ensuring our genes live on after we do could be one reason to ‘lubricate’ your social comfort level, though few have the courage to admit it.” I winked at the muscled meathead. Jessie transformed from feeling shocked that I knew his name to a lamb in his seat, as the hidden essence of his comment began to sink in. The laughter came slow, but was contagious. “What else we got?”
A sad-eyed girl in a torn hoodie muttered, “I drink ‘cause ‘fuck you,’ that’s why.”
I did a little dance of excitement, “Good Rebecca! A state of pure rebellion for its own sake is little more than a boundary test for the newly-fledged adult. By testing the limits of our independence we learn the safe from the unsafe as well as our own capabilities. The essence of this motivator is fear and survival.” The girl bristled, hating me. I tried not to smile. Let’s see the Board try to make me teach Gen. Ed. credit hours again after all the complaints they’ll get today. “What other brave souls have an offering of insight for the class?”
A girl some rows back said, “I only drink socially, like with my friends and stuff.”
“Ah yes, Natalie, your need is complex indeed, by fitting in with your friends and they with you, your clique not only gains the security of safety in numbers, but shows prospective partners that you follow the agreed upon rules of the social normative, making you more attractive to the sort of male you desire to couple with. Your motivator is acceptance, and not unlike Jessie in the back, ultimately reproduction. You two might endeavor to save some time and meet up for lunch after class.”
Chants of “Ohhhh!” and “Damn!” resounded from the horny students.
Natalie sank in her seat and whispered, “pompous ass.” I had to smile a little. The conversations in the room grew out of hand like kudzu vines.
“Is this guy serious right now?”
“Found my new favorite teacher!”
“He does have a point or two.”
“I can’t believe I signed up for a class taught by a psycho.”
“My buddy hooked up with Natalie. He’s right, chick’s baby-crazy!”
Then, a voice unlike the others sounded out, “Drinking is for cowards who lack conviction, eh Henry?”
I stopped smiling. Something in the voice from the crowd set off alarms – dusty alarms in my head that hadn’t rung out since my post-doctoral research on severe mental disorders back at the asylum. The voice was placid and sounded older than any of my kids’ should’ve. It had gravel in it and its low octave shoved its way through the young crowd like a monster truck on a go-cart track, but the origin of it was less distinctive. The budding chaos from shouting sorority sisters burst into loud arguments all over the class and a scuffle broke out between two boys on the right wing of the room. The students stood with camera phones drawn, jumping and clawing over seats to get a good view of the fight. I watched from my little soap box as a gaunt man in a dark coat stood and silently climbed the stadium stairs towards the exit. The root of why people flock to watch a fight: self-preservation and threat assessment. The more we know of the dangerous members of our society, the safer we can operate around them…