Wednesday, January 23, 2013

On hypocrisy

So I mentioned that I'm taking ASL, one of the reasons, beyond the obvious, is that for quite I while I keep feeling like I'm the only one around who doesn't already know it.  And of the people I know who know it almost all of them seem to be quite nice people.

The reason for the "almost" is a single person.

Not surprising that she is the only hearing person I have ever seen in my entire life to use knowledge of American Sign Language to pretend to be deaf in order to attempt to swing a situation to her advantage.  (The attempt was successful, and the ends were noble enough, but the means made you feel like you needed a bath.)

In the course of writing this post (after the R and before the D in "order" in the previous paragraph) someone asked me something and I asked them something in return, about this person and now have it confirmed that my experience is not new, it's just new to me, and the best solution anyone has found is to ignore her.

Anyway, some background before we get to the hypocrisy.

She and I have shared various classes for a while now, but starting last semester I noticed a distinct change in her attitude towards me.  It was quite negative.

The looks like you don't belong there, or don't deserve to speak, or are the monarch of putrescence (muck, filth, slime, rubbish), the tone of voice whenever she did deign to speak to me.  Jumping in the middle of a conversation I was having to block me out of it.  Answering questions that I asked other people in the rudest ways possible before the people I actually asked had a chance to speak.

When desks would be circled for group conversations in one class she'd consistently wait until the moving was basically done then move hers to block me out of the conversation, forcing me to move mine, and forcing me to move mine usually such that this time I had no choice but to move right next to hers.  At which point she would put her stuff in my personal space, too close to avoid, sometimes right on top my foot, and then loudly berate me for the horrible violation of touching her things without permission.

And she threw things at me.

These are not, on the whole, unusual tactics, but they are ones I haven't seen since high school or before.

About the only thing that she hasn't done is put her pencil in front of me and then accuse me of stealing it in front of an entire class.

And now we move to a week ago today.  Class in a conference room around a table.  Only one free seat at the main table.  Not next to her, fortunately, but next to the seat she has reserved for her things.  I don't disapprove of this, I do it myself when there is a seat free.  As I sit down do a similar thing (but not the same because only the kiddie table at the end of the main table is still left open, everything else has a person or, in one case, her things on it) and am immediately ordered by her in tones of, "How could you be so inconsiderate?" to move my things to the floor because someone else might be joining us.  I do, message is clear, if this supposed "someone else" does come they will not be allowed to sit at the main table because her things need their own chair, but the kiddie table must be left completely free on the off chance that they show up and are forced to sit there because she won't move her things from the chair she has put them in.

I have a bad cough that class.  I honestly can't tell you how she was acting during the class because most of my time was spent with my face in my elbow (they say cover your cough, but don't use your hands.)

At the end of the class I ask the teacher a question.  Before the teacher can answer she places her body between myself and the teacher* and tries to start a conversation.  I explain, as politely as I can manage to say such a thing, that I'm trying to talk to the teacher.  She responds with a strong and threatening, "And I'm trying to talk to you."

At this point I give up with politeness and go with the childishness that she seems to bring to all of our interactions and point out that I was trying first so she'll just have to wait.  She does back off a bit, not a lot but enough to regain line of sight between myself and the teacher, and the teacher asks me to repeat my question, then answers it.  All things considered, not a long wait for my fellow student.  Where if I'd let the teacher leave the room without giving me an answer I'd have to wait either two hours (if I chased her down after her next class which would risk me being late for a class of my own) or one full week for my answer.

And this is when we get to the hypocrisy, beyond the "I can put my stuff in the way of hypothetical people, but you can't put yours in their way," thing earlier.

She explained, in condescending and confrontational tones and phrases, that she had nothing against me, she just didn't like the way I interrupted the class.  Now it is worthwhile at this point to point out that, with one exception, the only classes we have ever shared run on interruptions.  Everyone does it because she and I have been in, I think, a grand total of one lecture class together.  (Which was before her distaste for me began) in fact, the teachers get upset (well... more dejected) if students aren't interjecting themselves into the conversation.  That's the major that she and I have chosen for ourselves.

Sometimes interruptions are to interject an alternate point of view, or a literary reference, or just to say, "I thought it was a genitive of separation."  Sometimes interruptions are to tell someone a vocab word they forgot so that they don't have to look it up.

So, according to her, interruptions are bad and I should not do them.  And in that situation she would like me just fine and not be an ass anymore.

Do I believe that that would be the case?  No.  But I did preform a test anyway.  This time in class I was silent wherever and whenever possible.

She vocally interpreted the class more than I ever have, and on the same exact topics for the same exact reasons.  She visually interrupted the class (remember, she knows sign language) a lot more, it's always distracting, slightly less so now that I know some of the things she's shouting out, at least I assume that's how one would describe signs as theatrical and unmissable as the ones she makes.  I estimate she made probably twice as many visual interruptions as vocal ones.  They lasted longer (the people she was signing to were largely ones sitting beside her, not the best angle for sign language especially since she seldom turned to face them, so they were almost always the last to see them) and distracted more (it's easier to tune out someone saying the same thing over and over than someone turning what should be ordinary sign language into an upper body dance routine.)

And that's where hypocrisy comes in.  Apparently me interrupting the class is bad and evil and wrong.  Her making interruptions for the same reasons, at the same times, and (for slightly less than a third of the time, which still managed to be more than I ever did) in the same way is good and right and proper.

I don't disagree with her interrupting the class to interject something here or there.  I think it smooths things along.  I disagree with the idea for her it's ok but not for me.

And for the record, if the hearing person next to you is trying to find the right word, that being "same", it would be better for the entire class if you leaned over to them and whispered, "Same," than if you signed the sign for "Same," in increasingly large and dramatic ways for several minutes until they finally looked up from their notes to see you while everyone else in the class had been forced to watch your completely unnecessary performance the whole time.

And that was one of the less annoying things because at least I knew what she was shouting.


* Because of the table and the position of those involved this literally requires her to be above me looking down.  It's actually a classic threat display for those who want to threaten someone sitting at a table.  She's standing; I'm sitting.  She has the high ground; I have the low.  She has mobility and her arms in positions of power; I'm boxed in by table and chair and my arms are in positions of writing.

You've probably seen this position, if not in real life then in a movie or TV show.


  1. I'm kind of disturbed that the teacher(s?) put up with her behavior, particularly her bullying of you. (And a nasty part of me wonders if it isn't because she's a woman and you're a man and that if the genders were reversed they'd act.)

    Have you considered talking to the instructor about the situation? Because this woman seems to be doing her level best to interfere with you getting the most out of the class. Which is all kinds of not okay. (Also, if she does this to you, I'll bet she does it to other people.)

    1. I don't think they notice.

      With the exception of her physically putting herself between me and the teacher (which has only happened once so far) most of what she does is out of their sight. For example the throwing stuff was done at a class we were both toward the back of, the answering questions asked to other people is done outside of class and cutting me out of conversations is largely the same way, as is most of her stuff with tone of voice and dirty looks. Mind you it's before and after class (it's not as if we hang out) but the teachers can't monitor all such interactions, especially since they're not there for all of them (sometimes they're talking to another student, sometimes they're rushing off to their next class.)

    2. Oh, and I have been told (don't know if it's true or not) that she only does it to one person at a time. So if she's picked me for the time being it means that, in theory at least, she isn't doing it to others.

    3. She may not be doing it to others right now, but she has and will.

      If it's mostly out of class, though, I vote for writing her off as the flaming asshole she is and trying (in as much as it's possible) not to care. Hardly an ideal solution. :\

      It's really damn hard to figure out what to do with supposed adults who act like a bad stereotype of a snotty teenager. *sigh*

      I'm sorry you've got to deal with her. I'm sorry _anyone_ ever has to deal with her.

    4. Today, when I normally wouldn't have class but it's a once a week class on Monday and Monday my teacher was parading in front of the President* while the school was closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we needed to rearrange to have a class this week at all.

      Problem person couldn't make the make-up class, which gave me at least one class of not feeling like a pariah**. Anyway, based on what you said, and the fact that I can't know she's not doing the same stuff to anyone else, I did talk to the teacher.

      Apparently I'm not the first. My impression was that she talked to the teacher about me, but the teacher didn't name names (not even enough to know if I had been brought up) so it's not possible to be sure. If true that can't be good because her story, whatever it is (how does one justify throwing things at people?) was in the teacher's mind first. But, that aside, my impression is also that at least one or two other people have brought this up with the teacher, which is not good news because it means it extends beyond, "Someone's being mean to me," since that would only involve two people. Not three or four.

      So there are questions of: ok, what's being done in class, everyone involved is an adult so how much of this should be taken up via direct conversation and confrontation rather than via teachers, what changes need to be made, and so forth.

      My main concern is that the teacher watch out to see if it's being done to anyone else. I was treated like shit through elementary school and much of middle and high school, this treatment feels out of time to me (as in, "weren't we passed this?"), but hardly unfamiliar and certainly not something I can't handle. But if telling the teacher to watch out for it can help someone else, then it's worth it.

      And the other students I've talked to have said more or less what you said as a solution. Their solution is, "That's just [her name], ignore it." So she's already written off as beyond the possibility of improvement and you have to try not to care. Like you said.

      Some also said that problems seem to have escalated this school year, starting with student's outright hate for the new Latin teacher brought in last semester. (The first day was spent on historical context and, rather than give her a few days to see if she jumped into the Latin -which is what student wanted- after finishing the context, student arranged an impromptu "This is a horrible teacher," meeting outside the door of the building with anyone saying anything other than, "I hate her too," being shot down.) That seemed to coincide with a change in her general attitude to various observers, but others who know her well point to problems going back to well before.

      One could blame her targeting me on the fact that I was (I think) the strongest voice for, "It's the first class, we've basically covered the historical context, give her a chance to get to the actual Latin before you judge her as a Latin teacher," but I actually think, on considering the details of timing, that it in fact has to do with something else. A private matter that I'm not going to discuss here which she managed to guess part or all of. Her starting in on me really really coincides with me starting to pursue that.

      So I think she's been targeting me for reasons that I'm not comfortable discussing, which is going to make it really hard to talk about it if I have to do so in any detail in the future.

      [Footnotes in different post for character count reasons.]

    5. [Footnotes]

      * She's holding the banner, the one doing so on the viewer's right. Her young daughter is one of the people on the really tall unicycles. The person who fell down was a high-schooler and, it is the impression that I have, not injured.

      ** A different class I had with student the day before began with me showing up early so I wouldn't be forced to sit on the same side of the table as her again, and then discovering that that meant that no one would sit on the same side of the table as me until there was no room left on the other side. I have an impression where the other students who show up early stand.

      Actually, that was the class I wrote this post after.

      The person who did sit on the same side of the table as me (there was one absence, or two if she was telling the truth about hypothetical person) does not, I think, stand on any side of the issue and as far as I know is completely oblivious to the fact that there's any disagreement going on. Which is good. My problems shouldn't spill over to become other people's problems.

      But at least two people in a seven (maybe eight if hypothetical person exists) person class decided to move to the other side of the table from their preference rather than sit near me. That's never fun.

      More elbow room, but when you're sitting in a room before class and there are only two sides, with the other side full up and your side empty save you, it gives you a very clear feeling of who the odd one out is.

  2. Ech, that really does bring back memories of high school, and how disappointing that your fellow students are not being supportive. One might hope that people would grow out of that sort of behaviour. I'm glad your teacher is now aware of the problem.