Inauspicious Beginnings

Tonight was my first lecture of the semester - I'm hoping they forget about the terrible first impression of the course after a few weeks. Not that the lecture itself went badly - in fact, I think they enjoyed the idea of International Relations as a big game of Tic Tac Toe. No - it was the "locked door" incident that made me look silly.

I got to the room about quarter to six - to find about a dozen students and one of my TAs standing in the hallway. "You have a key to this room, right?" she asked me. Ack. After hours - locked room - lecture in the hallway? I zipped upstairs to see if I could find an evening custodian or open office or key in a treasure chest (I've played enough SNES RPGs to know that there's a treasure chest with a key for every locked door in the dungeon) or something. I found an open custodian's closet, but no custodian. Inside the door, though, was a sheet with phone numbers - I dialed the one at the top of the list, got the Custodial Supervisor, and gave him the rundown - he was on the west side of campus, but said he could be at my building in five minutes.

I went back down to the hallway, where 60-70 students were now milling, and made a loud announcement about getting them into the room soon. So far I come across pretty well in this story, huh? Hold your horses, there, Mr. J.Bro-doesn't-sound-all-that-foolish! Because as I was making this loud announcement, a girl opens the classroom door from the inside to ask what's going on.

Here's what I think happened - the door handles to my classroom don't actually turn - the doors just pull open. I think one student came, tried to turn the handle, thought it was locked, and sat down to wait for someone with more authority and a key. Another student came, heard the door was locked, decided not to try it (since that would be an obvious insult to Student #1's intelligence), and sat down too. More students come, hear the locked-door story, and have no reason to try the door themselves - after all, why would eight other students be sitting in the hallway if the door wasn't really locked? I get there and find a dozen students and one TA outside - what reason do I have to doubt their story? Eventually, the hallway crowd reached a level that qualifies as teeming, at which point I make my announcement loudly enough to be heard over them, alerting the students inside the room to our presence.


grrrbear said...

That, my blog-friend, is a *spectacular* story.

I'm sure you'll find a way to work it into at least one lecture for all future classes, no doubt. It's too good not to.

Burrito Eater said...

I thouroughly enjoyed the story as well. Of course my criminal nature would be to find a way to bust open the doors or try the credit card I probably would've gotten them open anyways! :)

Spice said...

Hi-lar-i-ous! You can use that when you talk about information or something. Or path dependence.

Mister Vertigo said...

Great story! I'm sure it was a great way to break the ice with all your new students! :)

towwas said...


Theo said...

Wow, that's funny. I think I've seen the same exact thing happen in front of doors and even elevators though -- you shouldn't feel too silly. After all, it's the dumb kids' fault.

I think they call this an "information cascade" or something (when the opinions of the few have a too strong effect on the many). Maybe that first student was ACTUALLY a psychology student doing an experiment on the whole class?