I was in class with my students. It was quite dark outside, it felt like autumn. I was trying to concentrate on the people around me, but my mind was focused on other activities. Juggling the pieces of the puzzle - phone numbers, names, dates, places... I was looking for new ways to connect the dots and derive some knowledge that would help me in my quest.
Not much progress was made in the last hours. Maybe we had to change our modus operandi? Or maybe we were dealing with a "does not compute" type of problem?
My phone rang. I ignored it,
as I always do when I am in class. I looked at the screen though, it was a number I failed to recognize. My excuse not to pick up was rock solid - I respect my students, and I dedicate myself to them entirely when we are together; hoping they'd adapt the same strategy. My friends, and my work colleagues know that if I don't answer the phone, I am most likely in front of an audience, and that I will call back when I can.
The caller was rather insistent, a few more calls with a short delta_t between them, obviously it was someone who really wanted to talk. And obviously it was someone who wasn't familiar with my protocol.
My list of contacts grew quickly in the last few days, I interacted with a lot of people I didn't know. I had to discard my "I don't like phones" rule... I had to quickly establish links with complete strangers, ignoring all the rules of ethics, skipping introductions and proceeding to questions; time was precious.
This caller was someone new, the number wasn't in my address-book, nor was it cached in my memory. Someone newer than new.
I admit that my rock solid rationale was just a facade, the truth was that I simply did not want to talk, for I had a wary feeling. On the other hand, I knew it was an important matter, so I called back when I figured I couldn't ignore the calls anymore. You know... I stretched it as far as common sense allows, such that I could then say "ah, it was on "vibrate"" or "oh, I left it in the other room"...
The guy knew my name, and apparently he knew I was a teacher; while I had no idea who he was. He told me that I should "get here ASAP for an ID". I entered "defense mode" and barricaded myself with "but I cannot, there are N people who are waiting for me". "I can only be there in X hrs". It would be too late, the caller told me.
I gave in, saying that I could get there sooner. In an instant, another defense mechanism kicked in - "How do I get there? Can you describe the route?".
For someone dealing with such matters, the person I was on the phone with was pretty polite, patient and understanding. He asked where I was, and began devising directions. I was exposed to bus numbers and street names that I never dealt with previously. I felt that I was somewhere at the edge of the world, or in a place which doesn't exist on any map. Or was it the other way around? I was in the center of civilization, and he was explaining how to get to the middle of nowhere?
Naturally, I could simply write down the address, and take a taxi (thus outsource the problem to the driver). My instincts disagreed, so I continued acting like a clueless tourist, memorizing street names, intersections, turns to be made...
I told him I'd be there soon, even though I still had no idea where I was supposed to go. "Dokuceaeva"? "Malina something"? A street name beginning with "G"? Is that somewhere beyond Pluto?
I got back in the room, checked my timing and made a mental note - "I'd move out in X min", or "I'll begin to pack my stuff after Y and Z submit their reports", or "as soon as Q shows me the source code, I take off".
Time went by... X minutes have elapsed... Y and Z showed me their reports... I saw Q's source code... It was getting darker, I was running out of reasons to stay. I exhausted all my options. No more branches to hold on to, no more twigs to grab. I was between a rock and a hard place.
That day was the first time I told them they could go home earlier.
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