“It is of supreme importance that you don’t come to class late”, I declared, “For, I will be administering your quiz at the beginning of the class”. It was my first day as a teaching assistant, leading a discussion session comprising 20 undergraduates. It felt good to stand on the other side of the lectern. I would be giving out instructions rather than receiving them. I discussed administrivia with the entire class—how the classes would be structured and other boring stuff relevant information. And I had concluded my class by stating the importance of the students coming early. It was not for naught that Uncle Ben immortalized the golden words With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility, I would learn soon enough.

It was time for my second day of classes as a teaching assistant. Class would start at 8 am. I had set my alarm at 6:00 am—though I lived just two miles away from campus, I didn’t have my car with me at the time, and was going to take the campus shuttle at 7:30 am. I woke up, and saw that the time was 7:45 am.

7:45 am!

Holy moly, I was going to be late. By a lot, since the next shuttle was at 8:10 am. And I had just issued emphatic instructions to the students to be early, and here I was, about to show up at 8:30 am.

I got ready sooner than I ever had, stepped out of my home at 7:47 am and ran out to the main road. I was operating on adrenaline, and I really wasn’t sure exactly what I was doing. I didn’t have any plan whatsoever.

I walked up to a traffic light. The light was red, and I saw a girl driving a car towards campus. She looked like an undergraduate student. I knocked on her windows. When she lowered them, I asked, still huffing and puffing, “Could you give me a ride to campus?”. She looked bewildered. Her human instinct to help made her say yes, but she told me “This is so bizarre”. I agreed. Throughout the ride, she conjured up a variety of adjectives – “Weird”, “Odd”, “Strange”, and interjected with one-liners such as “Wow”, “Geeze” at regular intervals. Her words as well as body language conveyed her disbelief. “Do you do this routinely”, she asked me, “Asking rides from strangers?”. “No, this is the first time I have ever done this”, I answered truthfully. I also told her that I was a teaching assistant, and having told my students to show up on time, I could not afford to go late. She seemed to empathize with this, and clicked her tongue sympathetically.

Her bizarre morning was not over, though. She stopped at the final traffic light, to take a left to go inside campus. I didn’t have time for luxuries such as traffic lights. I thanked her for her immense kindness, and stepped out of the car, and sprinted away towards my class. In addition to good karma, she got a story out of her morning. And as it turns out, so did I!

I managed to get to class by 8:01, and administered the quiz on time. And in case you were wondering, I was on time for the rest of the semester (one horror story per semester is more than enough, thank you very much).

Speaking of oversleeping and alarms and all the good stuff:

Image Credit: Clipart-library.com

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