It is now finals week at my university. In addition to the time when I give and grade finals, it is also the time when I hear those magic words: “you’re impossible to find!”.
I usually hear “you’re impossible to find” from students who have some dire problem that involves them, their not attending class, and the letter “F”.
I know I am not impossible to find: I’ve had the same office and email since 1993. My contact information is on the university web site, my syllabus and my own web site. My office hours are listed on the syllabus, my door and my web site. I’m also in the phone book. I also have 6-12 hours of extra office hours in finals week. Yes, I do check my email, answer the phone, and hold my office hours. Really. So, I’m very easy to find. Also, since they do find me to tell me I am “impossible to find”, it is obvious that I am not. If I were, they never would. Find me, that is.
Naturally, I wonder why students continue to use that phrase. One possibility is that the mean I am difficult to find if they randomly show up at times when it is not my office hours (“I went to your office on Sunday on you weren’t there!”) or go to someplace that is not my office (“oh, you mean your office is not in the woman’s bathroom in the basement of Jones Hall?”). Another possibility is that they just use the phrase with no meaning behind it-like when people say “how are you doing?” A third possibility is that they are playing it as a bargaining chip-“you’re impossible to find, so I deserve some more grade points or maybe a pony.” A fourth possibility is that they have other professors who really are “impossible to find” and think that it is likely I am the same way. A fifth possibility is that they think I am so old or crazy that I won’t remember whether I can be found or not. Or maybe “you’re impossible to find” means “f@$k you for failing me, you damn philosopher” in some form of slang.
Interestingly, I’ve noticed that many students who have told me that “I am impossible to find” do show up to class when they need to see me. They often show up late, storm up to the front of the class clutching a piece of paper, and then reluctantly sit when I don’t suspend class to attend to them. They then spend their time fidgeting as if they were sitting on a small porcupine or hotplate. Then they storm out-only to return a day or seven later to tell me that I am “impossible to find.”
I don’t blame them-after all, how can I expect them to actually stay an entire class if they have something of supreme importance to discuss with me? How can a reasonable person expect them to go to my clearly posted office hours or send me an email or call me on the phone? Truly one cannot. It is a wonder that the Dean has not put a stop to my evil ways; but perhaps she cannot find me.