Music to my tears

By Rachel Nussbaum

Graphic by Elena Toumayan.
Graphic by Elena Toumayan.

Call it Restless Leg Syndrome (that’s believable). Call it unrealized musical ability. Whatever it is, it has to stop tapping on my chair.

Every day, a light tap, tap, tap on my chair rack, as the person behind me gets comfortable in their chair, puts his feet up like he’s in a cushy recliner. I’m fine with that. What happens next is the problem.

Somehow, he gets the impression that he’s received John Bonham’s techniques from the beyond. The beat picks up throughout class, eventually climaxing in a crescendo of rubber sole clunks. As I walk out of class, I glance back at my chair’s own personal musician. Those shoes were definitely made for walking, running, or, I don’t know, remaining on the floor.

But what can I do? Everyone’s guilty of tapping at some point, myself included. Sure, I get that you’ve had a long day and putting your feet up gets you that much closer to a sleeping position, or that this quiz is going to make or break your grade.

A solution is obviously necessary. Unfortunately, an answer doesn’t come that easily.

On the one hand, the person who’s bolting down their pencils in preparation for the oncoming earthquake could turn around and politely ask the other person to stop. As convenient and easy as this might sound, in reality, this simple action translates into one student being labeled an uptight snob, and the other most likely continuing their tapping/drumming/general shenanigans just to get a rise out of their vilified peer.

From personal experience, I’ve learned that this should-be solution is to be avoided. So out of desperation and a growing, slightly irrational hatred for the feet of the student sitting behind me (really, how much do those things weigh? How can they possibly make that much of a disturbance, and not be a Shaq-lifting size-23?!), I’ve devised a new technique. I call it the subtle pull, and not only is it simple, but it works.

First, get to the class of your usual aggravation early. I know nobody likes to be the first one in the classroom, but trust me; it’ll be worth it. Once you’re there, stealthily go stand near your desk and, inch by scraping inch, edge your desk just out of range of your irritator’s feet.  But be warned: it may take a few days to accurately estimate how far they can stretch. If you’re in the middle of a row, you might need a couple days to manipulate the set-up. And there’s the possibility that you get some odd looks from the teacher if he or she sees you. But past the awkwardness, you’ll appreciate the day when you finally get the position perfect, and you look back and see your troublers’ soles awkwardly flailing in a hopeless reach for the rack underneath you. That’s when I usually sit back, kick up my own heels, smile to myself and maybe even drum a little melody on the person’s chair in front of me. Wow, when did I get so talented?