Scene: The shared office commons now being touted in the Chronicle. Faculty sit at tables, their brightly-colored rolling carts by their sides. An elaborate Starbucks-like coffee counter is in the corner, its machines hissing and burbling. Students hover around the outside, waiting to see faculty but not wanting to break into the herd, so to speak. A few have braved the crowd.
Professor X: "I'm glad you came to see me, Stu Dent. I've noticed that you haven't been coming to class much lately."
Stu Dent: "mumble"
Professor Y to student at the next table: "I can lend you a copy of that--oh, wait, I don't have any books on campus any more."
Professor X: "I'm sorry, but I couldn't hear you. Can you tell me again?"
Stu Dent: (very quiet voice) "It's been rough at home, because my mother has ca--"
Barista: "MOCHACHINO UP!"
Stu Dent looks nervous, but continues: "cancer, and she hasn't been doing well lately--"
At the next table, a cell phone rings, and Professor M answers it: "HELLO? REALLY? SHE THREW UP AGAIN? I THOUGHT WHEN I DROPPED HER OFF THIS MORNING THAT SHE'D BE ALL RIGHT."
Professor X, trying to be encouraging: "That must be really hard. Well, on the assignment you missed the other day--"
Professor M: "DOES SHE HAVE A TEMPERATURE? ARE YOU SURE? OKAY, I'LL BE THERE IN HALF AN HOUR TO PICK HER UP."
Stu Dent: "I wanted to talk to you about that one, because [words drowned out in the noise from the steaming machine]"
Professor X: "I'm sorry, what?"
Professor N, who's been watching The Daily Show on his laptop with the volume low, now erupts in laughter.
Barista: "LATTE UP!"
At this point, Professor Y and the student are trying, but failing, not to look at/listen to the conversation of Professor X and Stu Dent.
Stu Dent: "Never mind. See you in class."
Disclaimer: This post in no way is meant to insult mothers, coffee drinkers, students, Daily Show watchers, professors, or baristas, but you get the picture.