The Sunday Scribblings prompt for this week is “Do I have to?” And because I am trying to get things together for a trip to Oregon next week to attend the wedding of my grandson. I will not try to answer any weighty questions such as “Why do I have to pay taxes to support wars I don’t approve of?” or “Why do I have to pay taxes so that big corporations can have their taxes cut?”
No, I will answer a more personal question: “Do I have to go to sleep when it’s dark?” Oh, I stay up late at night, even into the early morning, but only in well-lighted spaces. As soon as I turn out the light, I go out - well, out like a light!
One of the most embarrassing examples of this “have to” occurred several years ago when Otto and I, long past our own university days, decided to take a course in astronomy from one of the most charismatic professors on the campus, the noted astronomer, Dr. Alexei Filippenko. His lectures were clear, often funny, never anything but fascinating. Our problem (“ours” since Otto has a lot of that same “have to”) was that the lectures took place in the great, elliptical, partially underground, windowless, physical sciences lecture hall.
Note that word “windowless”. After the flocks of students trooped down from the entrance to find a place in the arced tiers of seats, the general lighting was turned off, leaving only the pool of light at the lecturer’s podium or the occasional beam from the projection room as slides were shown.
Otto and I at first stayed near the back of the hall. In the darkness our eyelids would droop, and we would lose consciousness until roused by some burst of laughter. We would try again to concentrate on the podium, but at the end of the class and the return of the general lighting we would wake up, heads leaned precariously against one another.
We decided that something must be done to correct this situation. It wasn’t that we weren’t enjoying the course. Dr. Filippenko left copious notes that we could access at the library, the assigned problems were challenging. But we wanted to hear his lectures!
We decided to sit far down the room practically under his nose. We wouldn’t dare to fall asleep there, would we? Yes, we would! The question of “Do I (we) have to sleep when it’s dark” was answered!
We studied hard, but Prof. Filippenko must have been surprised that we ranked second and third in the final exam for that humungous class. Otto ranked #2 and I ranked #3. A Japanese student was #1 with a perfect score. Maybe he had heard the lectures.