Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Second chance

Mark’s sleep was broken by a sudden sound of a truck back firing. Looking at his alarm clock, he saw that it was 4’O clock. Finally the day was here. Today was the day, 23rd Aug, that his review committee was scheduled to meet. And then his eye fell on the papers that he was supposed to have graded two days ago. He grumbled about the time, or rather lack of it, and went back to sleep.

As he slept off, he began to have an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach about the day ahead. His first taste of the day began when his alarm clock did not ring off and led him to oversleep till 7 AM. With the result that he was now running late by an hour compared to his original schedule. And that too on the day that his review committee was set to meet at 10 in the morning, in the campus and he was to finally get his long awaited chance of explaining to the committee why he should get a grant to conduct research on the “Economic Opportunity and Losses of the Global Warming”. He did not need this to happen. Not today, he didn’t. Not to forget the evening dinner that he had been planning with Sarah for so long. After a ton of procrastination, today was the day when they were finally going to get together for a lovely evening and it would not go well with Sarah if he did anything to jeopardize that.

He quickly washed himself and shaved. He took a quick look at his appearance and dashed off to the campus lest he should miss his 8’O clock bus from the pickup point two blocks away; reminding himself to take his blood pressure medicine with a quick bite in the institute cafeteria.

As luck would have it, he reached the pickup point at fifteen minutes past and missed the bus. Now he would have to board a taxi from the other end of the block and that would mean a delay of another half an hour. “Bother!” exclaimed Mark.

Not left with any other option, he walked to the other end of the block and hailed a passing cab. Sitting in the cab, he started to feel the beginnings of a headache. “I will have the medicine first thing I reach campus” resolved Mark.

By the time he reached the campus, it was already 9:30. Still left with around thirty minutes before his encounter with the committee, he went to the cafeteria to order his favorite ham on rye and a cappuccino. He was just about to dig in when a he heard someone calling his name from the hallway. Michael, his friend came frantically running to him. “What the bollocks are you doing here? And why is your phone switched off? The committee decided to meet at 9 and I was desperately trying to call you but to no avail”. Post-poning any further questions, Mark abandoned the thought of the sandwich and ran to the committee room to meet the ‘vultures’ as the committee was popularly known as.

As he entered the committee room at 9:50; he noticed two things: First, if the expressions of the members were anything to go by, his grant appeal was as good as turned down; and Second, he had left his preparatory material in the cafeteria itself. Deciding to brave the five member committee as it is, as going back for the material would have been a certain suicide; Mark walked to the center stage. “I apologize to keep you all waiting but due to an unfortunate combination of a faulty alarm clock, unpaid mobile bills and not being aware of the change in timings has led to such unfortunate delay. I fully…” Mark was stopped in the mid sentence on the vulture on the extreme left. “Where is you preparatory material and where are our copies? How are we supposed to follow what you are saying?” asked she; and the meeting progressively worsened with each passing minute.

When Mark came out of the room after the torture of full sixty minutes, he felt as if the day could not get any worse. He came out only to find a clerk waiting with a note from the Dean to meet him immediately. Rubbings his temples to relieve what was now turning out to be a full blown headache; he trudged towards the Dean’s office, still having his ham on rye sandwich in mind.
Dean: “You missed yet another class today!” started the dean without any obligatory niceties.
Mark: “I am sorry sir that this happened today but it was not a fault of mine. First my alarm clock didn’t work and then the missed bus and irate vultures… I mean the committee. I do sincerely apologize and promise that this wouldn’t happen in future.”
D: “Have you graded the papers that I gave you?”
M: “Umm… no sir but I was planning to do them today after going back.”
D: “So let me promise that there would not be a next time as from today, for the next six months, I am putting you on probation. If your performance does not improve in the next six months, we have to let you go. Please hand me the graded papers before the end of day today”
 The rest of the day passed in a flurry of activities. In the evening, Mark began to evaluate the papers to be handed over to the Dean. At six, Mark was just finishing up grading the papers and planning to get busy in preparing a session plan for the next day and did not realize the time when he was jolted by incoming call from his girlfriend Sarah. This reminded him that at that time they were supposed to be at the 6’O clock show at the mall.
Sarah: “Where are you?” said an icy cold voice from the other end.
Mark: “Got a bit occupied in course planning. You wouldn’t believe the day I had, if I tell you.”
S: “Worse than standing in a queue outside a theater, dressed in white dress and waiting for someone who had been promising to watch the movie for over a month now?”
M: “Umm… different worse?” ventured Mark.
S: “Hmm… We need to talk about us and what you need to do if you want ‘US’ to work out!” And she cut off the phone.
 The throbbing headache, lack of medicine combined with the exhaustion and stress of the day began to take a toll on Mark and he fell asleep on the table itself.

BAM! The noise of a truck back firing woke Mark. It was a moment before he realized that he was in his bed and not in his classroom. The dial on alarm clock declared 4 AM on 23rd Aug.

Wondering if it all was a dream because if it was a dream, it felt very real; his eyes fell on the papers he was supposed to have graded two days ago. He decided to let go of the sleep and began evaluating the papers!