THE ROBOTS ON CAMPUS
By Sean Ennis
By which I don’t mean all the students dress the same and think the same, but instead the little machines that deliver lunch. The future is torpid. But don’t worry, the robot locks so no one will steal your food unless they know its secret. Though the undergrads are starving. For knowledge, right.
Once, I wrote all class in permanent marker on the dry erase board. Once, I had a panic attack. These were not the same days. Once, I stayed in the classroom and smiled unshaved while they filled out my evaluation. Once, I lied about an emergency, the textbook, etc.
We are often disappointed in youth. It starts early. The eight o’clock lecture is poorly attended, discussion on Friday laconic and hungover. Can’t login, calculator forgotten. You won’t blame them. For trying, a C.
Once a student left early, seemed destined to return with violence but instead went to the Counseling Center, then back to his stepfather’s house. College isn’t for everyone and teaching is a thankful vocation. At home, I check email for apologies and excuses.
After a few days, the delivery robots are old hat. One was run down in a crosswalk. One was spray painted with our rival’s colors and racist graffiti. Adderall does this to people. Then the general complaints about the delivery fee and its sexy voice. Now they get the apathy of tiny mini vans.
I am not the undergrads’ friend, neither their enemy. They used to pass notes, today just viruses. Their sneakers are so bright, and their eyes are so shiny. They cannot imagine me outside of the classroom though I do live and breathe. They say those who can’t, teach, which is hurtful and not true, but true a little bit. I can make my own lunch, damnit. But when I order from the robot and the meal is all wrong, I’m too scared to correct it.
Sean Ennis is the author of CHASE US: Stories (Little A) and his flash fiction has recently appeared in Passages North, Hobart, Tiny Molecules, BULL Men's Fiction and Queen Mob's Tea House. More of his work can be found at seanennis.net