I can’t remember anymore how it came up in the first place, but in the ebb and flow of lab work, one of my students told me that there was talk that I was “the devil.” I wasn’t sure at first how to take this. (Actually, I’m still not sure.) I inquired further.
Since this student was taking her second semester of coursework with me, I at first thought she was referring to her own and her peers’ take on me. This would have been only slightly surprising. After all, I make them do a variety of hell-inspiring things. At that moment, I was making them cut out strips of paper in such a manner so that they could be made to twirl and slightly hover as they fell from the sky. This was supposed to part of a scientific study, and they were further tortured with a vague assortment of string, rulers, and stopwatches.
But she wasn’t talking about her own perspective. She told me that this was the view of another faculty member in my own college. This particularly wrinkled my brow, since I’d just been thinking that I wasn’t aware of anyone on the faculty who is or even should be angry with me. I’d thought of putting this fact on my annual report. Maybe I still can, because she went on to explain that this other anonymous faculty member thinks of me as “the devil” because of an actual fear of me and what I’m up to.
Dear reader, if you don’t know me personally, you should know this: I don’t believe there is anyone on this good Earth who is actually afraid or even intimidated by me. I’m fairly oblivious to my own public persona, but it seems to be a consistent observation that students talk to me freely, skeptical two-year-olds grab onto my leg, and even now as I approach my fortieth birthday I can still be mistaken for a student (at least from a certain distance). My daughters’ cat, the being on this earth which seems to be the most annoyed with me, squints her eyes and tells me to fuck off when I try to pet her — the intimidation is in the opposite direction from what you’d expect of someone who is the antichrist.
According to this student’s account (which I’ll admit could have its own twist, strange interpretation, or losses in translation), the fearful faculty member seems to think I do things that reach beyond the natural world and its limitations. He believes I have more than my share of power, and that I have an aim to take over the college. His statement that I’m “the devil” is not one of anger or of annoyance with me, but of a fear of something that could sweep across the campus with a fiery rage of power. Or something like this. I’m still trying to fill in the blanks and figure it all out.
This would all be fine, but there was another statement relayed to me that really hurt my feelings: this fearful faculty member thought that I was aiming to become the Dean. Honestly, I’d rather be janitor. (After all, that’s the guy with the most power around here.)