Sunday, November 28, 2010

Close Encounters of the TA Kind - The Kingston Bubble

Kingston. It's large enough that it still feels like a city, yet small enough so you feel that comfortable community environment Queen's is so proud of. We live in that Kingston Bubble. And so, logically, we run into each other frequently, correct?

Friends, this past weekend was the epitome of everything I've said above. My encounters were, obviously, coincidental. Yet it all happened in sequence, in same weekend. Collectively, these encounters are strangely amusing, yet so strangely seemingly contrived. Eerie, even. My collective sequence of encounters were so strange (yet entertaining) that I've decided to blog about it.

And here, my friends, is my narrative of this past weekend's amusingly strange encounters. More specifically, these close encounters of the TA kind. That's right. TA-ing and students have something to do with it.

I've spent the last two weeks agonizing over marking essays (and, as a side note, if I ever have to read about why torture isn't an appropriate state tool ever again, I will probably throw a tantrum). Yet I set marking aside on Friday morning to spend time with my dodgeball team. We held an end-of-semester sushi lunch, since we won't see each other until January. The reason? Because we didn't make play-offs. Sad. I know. But that's a story for another day.

During lunch, I told Josephine all about my love affair with coffee shops, mentioning that I would be marking essays in a coffee shop that afternoon. And here, Josephine uttered those fateful words: "What if one of your students walked into the coffee shop you were marking in?" And I naively replied with a laugh, "That would never happen!"

Naive, I tell you. Really, I should have known.

And so after sushi, I walked to my usual coffee shop to mark the remainder of my papers. I sat there for several hours, and I went through them pretty quickly. Awesome. Marking was going great. Until I heard someone clearing their throat behind me. Turning around, I gaped in surprise to see one of my students standing behind me to say hello. They had spotted me marking from across the coffee shop.

Josephine's prediction came true. Dun dun dun. Eerie.

After a brief hello, hurriedly, I packed up and decided to walk over to the coffee shop across the street for a slice of cake. I needed a change of scenery, right? And really, I needed to leave. I felt my student's curious gaze burning a hole in the back of my head.

And so I walked to another coffee shop, found a seat, ordered a slice of scrumptious carrot cake, placed the remaining stack of essays on the table, and continued marking. It was going great. And yet half an hour later, it happened again.

Flipping over the title page to begin marking the next essay, I looked up and saw the student of the paper I was marking walk into the coffee shop. Let me say that again. The student of the paper I was marking.

What are the chances of that happening? Seriously, what? Dun dun dun. Eerie.

Meekly, my student paused to wave at me and I waved back, discreetly slipping her paper underneath my pile in the event that she would walk over to say hello.

She didn't.

That evening, some friends and I sat at the Common Ground for another few hours of marking and studying. Because our lives are so exciting, right? After describing Encounter 1 and Encounter 2 to a fellow TA, she laughed. Because beyond the awkward nature of the situation, I suppose it was an entertaining story.

But it wasn't over.

We finished marking pretty late that night, and I decided to take the Walkhome service home (an awesome service where two students walk home with you). Because it's dark. And Vic Park scares me at midnight.

And so as I requested a walk home from the desk at the JDUC, two students emerged to announce that they would be walking me home for the night. Donning their Walkhome walkie-talkies, we set out towards my house. Chatting about our classes, I asked my Walkhome walker what program he was in. His answer? "I'm in first-year Politics."

Oh. Really? Would you, by any chance, be taking the first-year Politics course? Friends, you know the answer. Why, yes he was! Cautiously, I asked him who his TA was. His reply? His TA was the friend I was marking with that evening.

Seriously. Can this town get any smaller? Spoken like a true urbanite.

And so this afternoon, I finished the last paper I had to mark as I sat in Starbucks enjoying the Christmas music and drinking my usual London Fog. Hallelujah, marking was over! Over! And so as I sat, reading blissfully, I looked up. And. You guessed it.

Another one of my students walked in. With other students from our tutorial. (Insert face palm here). They waved uncertainly, and I waved back. Because really, what's the etiquette of approaching TAs or Professors in a non-academic setting? Awkward situations, these.

How much of this could realistically happen in one weekend? It boggles the mind.

Wary of running into any of my students, yet too busy to get up and switch coffee shops, I immersed myself in more work and began to email back and forth with one of my own professors. I had questions regarding the essay due for his class this week.

We emailed back and forth for ten minutes. I had all my questions answered.

Until, of course, I heard someone clear his throat beside me. I looked up. And, wouldn't you know it? My professor had been sitting right across from me at Starbucks the entire time we had been emailing each other. After sending my last email, we finally noticed each other.

I waved meekly and said a brief, yet awkward, hello. He, in turn, waved and stood up to leave.

Oh, Kingston Bubble. Your small-town environment never ceases to amaze me.


This all happened this past weekend, folks. All of it. Lessons learned?

1. Your students are everywhere.
2. Everywhere.
3. In Kingston, you run into at least three person you know, involuntarily, everyday.
4. The Kingston Bubble is small.
4 a). But we love it anyway.

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”
- Peter Marshall (American Game Show Host)

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'"
- Erma Bombeck


  1. That's what I like about (school) communities! You always see people that you know and it's comforting for the most part. Maybe more awkward for you since you're a TA, haha.

  2. Haha, a little awkward, but it's nice overall. I love Kingston, it's such an awesome university community.

  3. First Sunday at Queen's, I'm getting to know some other students at Church and one guy says he's also in poli sci - first year. I say - hey I'm TAing that class, maybe you'll be in my section. First tutorial - there he is...

  4. Holly, that is so funny! This is why I love Kingston... haha