Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bold as brass

Today near the beginning of my last class, while I was busy going around the class and helping the students to understand a handout I'd given them, something so bizarre but at the same time sort of ordinary happened that I almost instantly forgot about it. Why does that happen? Something you can't explain happens, and you block it out. I had fully intended to find out what it was all about after class, but already by then I had forgotten. I even forgot when I was meeting my friends after work. If I'd remembered I would have asked them if it had happened to them as well, but I didn't. I FORGOT. Why did I forget?

What happened was that my classroom had a couple of visitors. They were wearing what I think is the university janitor uniform, but might not have been (I didn't look at the uniforms very closely) and they didn't come alone. They came with a machine.

It was the machine that distracted me so badly. There I was towards the back of the classroom, chatting with a group of students, explaining something, when I heard a noise behind me. Thinking that another student was arriving late I turned, and there were the two men and their machine coming in the door at the back of the classroom.

The machine looked like a something that had been constructed for a very low-budget science fiction movie from the seventies. It was a gray metal box on wheels, about waist-high, with a few flashing lights and numbers on the front. The two guys wheeled it just inside the door, muttered to each other, and then the older one unhooked from the back something that looked almost but not quite like a vacuum cleaner tube with a sort of nozzle arrangement on the end. He pointed it up in the air and slightly forward, and held it there. Then the two of them stopped moving. They just stood there and did nothing as the numbers blinked and the lights flashed. The machine did not make any noise, or none that I noticed. (The classroom was not exactly quiet, so actually there could have been a sinister hum I didn't hear. You never know.)

I stared. I was only a couple of metres from the two men, but they stared past me blankly. There were three or four rows of empty desks between us. I was extremely tired and my brain refused to explain what was going on or what I should do about it. Nothing made sense. I turned back to the students I had been talking to.

"Who are they?" I whispered.

The students grinned at me blankly.

"Who are they?" I whispered, louder and more urgently. "What are they doing?" I think that was the first time I had ever asked this question in a language classroom and really wanted to know. The textbooks always have it somewhere, and it is never a sensible question. It is always OBVIOUS what 'they' are doing. This time it wasn't obvious at all.

The students shrugged cheerfully. They seemed to think it was funny, and waited to see what I would do next. Most of the other students had their backs to the men and hadn't even noticed them.

I turned back to the men and their machine, which was still blinking numbers. The men stood and stared blankly at nothing. They hadn't moved at all. When I leaned over into their line of sight and smiled inquiringly at them they didn't respond. They didn't even blink. One was still holding the nozzle thing up in the air.

It was bizarre. It was so bizarre I found I couldn't think clearly. But at the same time the two men looked so utterly ordinary they were instantly forgettable. All I can remember now is that one was younger and the other older.

(Why didn't I just ask them what they were doing? Had they hypnotized me?)

I turned back to the students.

"Aren't you scared?" I asked. (We did "Fears" last week as a topic in the textbook, and while I may have become stupid I still couldn't resist the chance to recycle some new language.)

The students, still grinning, shook their heads. I frowned ferociously and leaned in closer to them.

"Why not?" I hissed. "We don't know who they are! Didn't you see the news about that Russian spy in London? What if they are Russians, and they're poisoning us?"

The students laughed. "They're Japanese!" they said.

"How do you know?" I insisted. "They might be North Korean! And what is that machine? Maybe it's gas! Maybe they're trying to poison all of Japan's cleverest students! Quick! Open a window!"

The students giggled and pointed at the windows, which were already open. They thought I was trying to be funny, and I was, but I was also starting to scare myself. The men still hadn't moved. I glanced back at them and got the spooky feeling that if I went over and stood right in front of them and waved my arms and shouted, "MOSHI MOSHI?" they would not respond. Surely, if they were legitimate, I would have been warned they were coming? Why hadn't they explained themselves? Why were they behaving as though there was nobody else in the room? Why did the students think it was funny? (Had they been hypnotized, too?)

Then another student called for me with a question, and I went to answer it, and after that when I looked back the men and their machine were gone.

I made a quick note to ask the secretary about it after class, and then things got busy. By the time class ended I had lost the note amongst my papers and forgotten all about it. It was only after getting home that I found the note again and remembered.

But how could I forget something like that? And how could I be so stupid? A couple of North Korean spies came into my classroom, bold as brass, blatantly poisoned me and all my students, and what did I do about it? I CARRIED ON TEACHING.

I'm starting to feel a little weak already. I wonder how long it will take for me to collapse? Has the poison reached my brain yet, do you think? Is my thinking muddled? Am I hpomh ,sfz JR;[@@@


Anonymous said...

They weren't really there. You're seeing things.

Either that, or they were taking air samples. Testing for mold spores in the air.

Cheryl said...


Anonymous said...

If they were from Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems, your concerns are warranted.

Anonymous said...

I think they were probably measuring for raydon. They have to be still and watch the dial, so they would have to ignore you and concentrate.