The Types of People You Will Sit Next To in Class

Universities are cruel places. Not only are you required to study, hand in homework and write term papers, but they make you sit next to dozens of strangers.

Allow me to give you a breakdown of the types of people who will occupy the seat next to yours, so that you may prepare. I'm not saying that there's anything you can do to make the experience less uncomfortable, but at least you can try.

The Familiar Face - Out of the 400 faces in your class, this is the only one you have seen before, and thus you are obligated to sit next to it. Even though neither one of you is even remotely interested in associating with the other one, both of you realize that turning your back and sitting between two strangers would be the height of rudeness. This predicament will ensure that you have a full semester's worth of horrendously awkward conversations about whatever it is that the two of you have in common; if you're lucky, the person is in your major, and you met in a university class in a previous semester. If you're unlucky, the person once vomited on you in Elementary school, ensuring that you will be forced to have painful and traumatizing weekly conversations, in public, about a mutually mortifying childhood event. Dropping the class may be the coward's way out, but with the Familiar Face, it is the only way out.

Sit with me, friend.

The Golden Girl (or Boy) - They say that you are never too old to fulfill your dreams; plenty of people middle-aged and older sign up for a second chance at post-secondary. You can, however, be too old to sit next to a teen-aged college student. The Golden Girl (or Boy) is always ruthlessly well-organized, bringing about instant feelings of inadequacy in their chosen seatmate. You can be sure that the Golden Girl (or Boy) will spend the duration of the lecture peppering you with mundane questions, including "What date is the midterm?" "Is this class curved?" and "Will we be graded on the elasticity of our skin?", before immediately deciding that they unsatisfied with answers from a whelp like you, and seek clarification from the professor. By the end of the semester, you are guaranteed to retain absolutely no respect for you elders, and may or may not have tattooed the course syllabus to your cheek for the Golden Girl (or Boy)'s viewing pleasure. Have fun burning down that retirement home, champ.

Grandma couldn't care less about making the Dean's list; she's just here for the bitchin' parties.

The Space Invader - Just as humans do not belong on the surface of Jupiter, this person's arm does not belong on your desk. Space invaders all apparently graduated from Tiny Cardboard Box High School, and now wish to fill up as much space at university as they can. Throughout the semester, you can expect to come into contact with body parts in ways that you would never have thought were possible while sitting in adjacent, stationary chairs. What's that touching your hair? Oh, it's just your seatmate's toes, no need for alarm. And what is that touching the keyboard of your laptop? No need to fret, it's just your seatmate's shoulder blade. Be sure to keep a pointy object on you at all times, as Space Invaders apparently observe only the boundaries set by sharp pain and bleeding.

This is your life now.

The Axe Murderer - From the moment this classmate sits down, your body and brain will be reeling with fear and horror. But it isn't because you think your classmate is about to cleave your skull in two like a piece of firewood. No. It's much more terrifying than that; your classmate smells exactly like Junior High. Anyone who ever went to middle school is well acquainted with the pungent aroma of body spray, and undoubtedly has terrible, terrible memories that go with it. Why this crime against olfaction is allowed to walk around in the open all these years later is a mystery. But what you do know is that you're about to spend the next hour quietly wiping your eyes, unsure if the tears are due to the overpowering stench, or because the guy next to you smells like rejection itself.

Remember when emo was a thing? You do now.

The Helen Keller - When this person was packing their backpack for school this morning, it seems they forgot to bring along functioning lenses or eardrums. Now you're stuck next to them in the "nosebleed zone" - rows of seats not typically occupied by the myopic or the hard of hearing - and for the next hour, you will be this person's guide dog (a sort of Anne Sullivan, if I want to be historically accurate and just that much more offensive). Every word the professor speaks, and every character written on the board, will amount to a blank stare and a whispered "What was that?" from your seat mate. In no way at all does it make sense for this person to exist; there are special educational resources available for everything from the blind, deaf and handicapped to students who "just kinda look funny". If you could find a way to convince the university that it is essential to have grown men dressed as Pandas read your class notes to you over dinner every day, they would send for a Panda costume that very week. Besides, everyone knows that college students are notorious shitheads - it's only a matter of time before someone convinces one these poor, sensory deprived students that they are to go home and worship Lord Xenu as homework.

Pictured: your classmate. Apparently.

The Networker - From the moment your ass hits the chair, this person wants to know who that ass's friends are and what it's studying. Forget about your family, friends, significant other, goals, dreams and beloved goldfish - for the Networker, you are little more than a potential pet they might like to add to their collection. This person may be sizing you up as a potential business contact or as a potential spouse. Every lapse in the professor's speech will be a chance for them to continue with their extensive personal interview. There's no way to win - if they don't like you, you have to cope with the sting of rejection. If they do like you, they won't leave you alone until they've chased you across the stage at graduation. Whatever the case, there are a few things you should keep in mind before you engage in social interaction with this person.

1. They are allergic to Liberal Arts.
2. They know the employment statistics of every future career you could possibly list.
3. Never give out your contact information.
4. Don't feed them after midnight.

See, kids? It really does get better! Er... sort of.

Pinball Wizard - Lecture theaters aren't visually stimulating places. As per some secret university blandness policy, these rooms seem to be painted in various and exciting shades of beige, complimented nicely with aged gray carpet. Combine that with a black or brown clad professor, and you've got a veritable collage of educational technicolor in front of you. But somehow, for this person, it isn't enough. From the moment the class begins, this person will struggle desperately to fill their laptop screen with as many bright flashing lights and spinning colors as possible. It's like a game - the first person to have a seizure wins - and you get to play right along with them. Who wanted to take notes anyways? Classrooms are, after all, places for the viewing of brightly-colored anime and rapidly-spinning video games, not places of mere learning. For shame.

Some of these are more subtle than others.

The Wall - By far the most commonly seen Type of Person You Will Sit Next to in Class, the Wall is particularly difficult to write about, seeing that it has no personality or interesting qualities at all. It will show up to class on time, leave when class is over, and spend the time in between silently staring into space with a glassy gaze. It is encouraged that you listen carefully every now and again to ensure that the Wall is, in fact, still breathing, and not a clever android sent by the Computer Science department to learn the ways of human interaction. The only good thing about being seated next to the wall is that you can assume the role of any of the obnoxious individuals listed above, as they will not call you on it. And with that said, I have created monsters of you all. You're welcome.

Pictured: your entire class, every single day of your university career.

Of course, there is the off chance that the person sitting next to you will not belong to any of these categories, and will instead go on to be your bestest friend, or even the love of your life.

And you'll pass notes like the corny stereotypes that you are.

... but most of the time, they will not. Your only hope is to gain enough weight that you spill over into both of the seats next to you, ensuring a lonely but less awkward college experience.

So go eat a cheeseburger. Your education depends on it.


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