Everyone knows the lecture theatre holds a merry cast of characters, but have you ever taken the time to make a detailed list? Here is just a small glimpse at some people you may have run into in your 9ams.
1: The Keen Bean
No matter what time you walk into the lecture theatre, they’re always there before you. Usually sitting in the front row, and if not in the front row, then in a puddle of their own tears in the second row. When the lecturer walks in, their heads whip round like something from the Exorcist with a rictus grin across their face. Maintaining not-creepy-at-all eye-contact with the lecturer for almost the entire duration of the lecture, they’re ready to learn and have fun while they do it. Dear Keen Bean, we admire your enthusiasm, we wonder where it came from, and we beg that you tone it down a bit. You’re making the rest of us look even worse than we feel during a 9am.
2: The Obsessive Note-Taker.
As the lecturer drones on, you can hear a low hum to your left somewhere. Has a bee buzzed into the theatre? Is a visiting student humming ‘Star Spangled Banner’ again? Not quite. What you can hear is the sound of layers and layers of graphite being eroded away by friction or the whirr of a ball-point pen as the obsessive note-taker threatens to break their own wrist as they attempt to copy down everything in the lecture word for word. After an hour of non-stop writing, they unhook their mangled hand from their choice of writing implement and breathe a sigh of accomplishment. You can see the pain in their eyes, they’re nearly crying, but they love it. Dear Obsessive Note-Taker, you’re a freakish masochist but we keep you around because we obviously didn’t pick up a pen during the hour at all.
3: The One lusting after a hot lecturer.
You can hear them panting from 5 rows away. They haven’t stopped writing in their notebook and you’re pretty sure that rather than a transcript of the lecture, it’s an erotic short story entailing just what would happen between the Lecturer-Lover and the hot professor in a one-on-one tutorial. Their eyes are fixed on the podium, but they’ve glazed over and you know that they’re mentally undressing the lecturer as you hastily try and work out exactly what the lecture itself is about. It’s actually quite uncomfortable sitting near them. The theatre is filled with pheromones and there’s no escape until after an hour. Dear Lecturer-Lover, you have virtually no redeeming qualities and you make us all uncomfortable. Enough said.
4. The One lusting after a lecturer who is NOT hot.
Possibly worse than the previous offender. No one understands what is going on in your head. The lecture is clearly past 50, getting close to severely overweight, and no matter how ‘interesting’ their bone structure is, they’ll never be attractive. Are you attracted to power? Is that it? If so, I can point out several more suitable candidates such as Barack Obama, Angela Merkel. Maybe even Boris Johnson. But the person giving a lecture about the history of Jane Austen is not powerful or attractive. You’re clearly a bit deluded and you make us all uncomfortable. Stop what you’re doing at once. We will give you real, human currency.
5. The One who doesn’t sleep.
They trudge in. They grunt at someone they recognize. They sit down at the back. They take out their notebook, fashion a small pillow out of it and lay down their heads for the rest of the lecture. Oh how we envy you. If only you knew how tired the rest of us are, but the rest of us are too easily manipulated by social conventions and fear of being intellectually sub-par. You look so at peace, wrapped so deeply in your hoodie that you don’t seem to be aware of the presence of evil in our world, but you’re only postponing the inevitable. Dear Mr. Sleeper, we’re all deeply jealous of you and we wish we had your confidence. The only thing of yours we don’t want is that bed-head. Yikes!
6. The Couple.
They are practically one person. They’re holding hands on the way in. They’re holding hands on the way out. Hell, they’re probably holding hands all the way through the lecture. They’re always whispering to each other, giggling with each other, and nuzzling each other. You’re pretty sure you’ve seen them kiss in the middle of the lecture hall once. At some point during the hour, one of them will lean their head on the shoulder of the other. God, that looks nice. We wish we all had that. But chances are, we’re probably sitting next to the next person on the list. Dear Couple, you irritate us because you seem so perfect. Please stop at once. We can only take so much at this hour of the morning.
7. The Ill Person.
What did the lecturer just say? It’s getting hard to tell. Most of his sentences now are punctuated by a spell of staccato coughs and sneezes and he never talked very loudly before Ill Person became ill anyway. In the middle of an important fact, they’ll hawk a gobbet of mucus back into their diseased throats. They’ll wipe their rapidly running noses on the back of their sleeve with blissful abandon while you try to keep your breakfast down. If we’re sitting next to you, we know it’s only a matter of time before you infect us. Like the spread of a zombie plague, in a matter of days the whole lecture theatre will be filled with a tumbling crowd of Ill People. Dear Ill Person, we wish you’d stayed at home. Now all of us are at risk, doomed to become the social pariah that you are. Thanks a lot.
8. The One that you’re lusting after.
You definitely haven’t been waiting outside the lecture theatre for half an hour and going in just after they went in to make sure that you get a seat next to them. It was just a coincidence that you arrived unusually early and had the thought to go in just as they arrived. Meaningless noise spews from the mouth of the lecturer as you strain your body so that they only see you from the one angle where your head doesn’t look like an egg with a face drawn on it. You correct your posture every few minutes. You keep pushing your hair around on your head to make sure it looks nice. You sigh every so often just to let them know that you’re not fully content in life and that you’d be happier with a casual lover. Except they never notice. Never. And you’re not sure how much longer it’ll be before you throw yourself at their feet crying and whispering ‘Love me’ into their perfect ears. We’ve all been there.
9. The One who doesn’t wash.
At first, you recognized them by their features. Now, you recognize them by their pungent and unpleasant odour. When you first smelt them from along the row, you thought they must have had a bad night and not had time to shower when they woke up. But on the umpteenth time, you start to become suspicious. As you look fearfully at them and vow only to breathe through your mouth for the rest of your life, you wonder whether you should bring it up or let them live in blissful ignorance. Not everyone can smell as great as you do, y’know.
10. The One who spoke to you once and now thinks that you’re friends.
Perhaps they asked you the time once. Or maybe they just wanted to look at the handout. Whatever serendipitous occasion first introduced you to them, the end result is always the same. They won’t bloody leave you alone. They always make a beeline for you in the theatre, excited at the prospect of making friends from other colleges. By contrast, you couldn’t care less about them. You’d sell them to Satan for a Tesco meal deal. But for some unnerving reason, they think that they have a special bond with you and you just don’t know what you did to deserve them. I’d try and say something reassuring, but really you’re stuck with them for life. Sorry. Have fun with that.