Abstract Academic: A knee-jerk reaction

I was on campus today, running a few errands before heading off to work. As I leaned on the counter and watched the secretary make some notes on my forms, a jerk walked into the office.

Now, the word “jerk” is one of those descriptors that gets thrown around these days and placed on people who are really just cretins, idiots and pests. Like the word “nerd.” Do you remember, back before Tina Fey was a thing, that a nerd was someone who played Dungeons and Dragons and took their TI-83 calculator to prom? These days, millions of people aspire to be nerds, and think that buying a cardigan and a thick pair of glasses makes them one.

But I digress. This woman who walked in was an out-and-out jerk, and you could read it on her face. She ripped off her saucer-sized sunglasses and said something very demeaning to the nice woman behind the desk, along the lines of “Hey, &%$$, do you know where I can %@#$&% find Professor $$#%face?” but with a lot more profanity. The secretary, displaying an admirable amount of patience, smiled pleasantly, asked Mrs. Jerk to please take a seat, and went to get the professor. Mrs. Jerk began pacing frantically, while complaining over her cell phone to someone about how Professor %*@!@head gave her a C on her first paper, and if he thinks this paper is a C, then he really does have his . . . well, she said a lot of things.

Professor Mc$@%# came out, shaking in his tweeds, and was verbally dragged behind a horse, but he impressively stood his ground and explained to Mrs. Jerk calmly that she received a C because, among other things, she cited Wikipedia, misspelled many words, and two of the three pages were copy-pasted from an article on Vogue.com. Mrs. Jerk huffed and puffed her way out of the room. She was clearly not used to being disagreed with after one of her bullying romps.

I have a big problem with jerks. They ruin things for everybody else. In fact, they’re the same people who. . .

. . .get hammered while tailgating before a football game, then go into the stadium and try to start fights with people who ask them politely to kindly refrain from shouting things that would make the Oakland Raiders blush.

. . .think that regular people’s rules don’t apply to them, which makes it legal for them to jaywalk, park in two parking spots and cut in line at Disneyland.

. . .order insanely complicated things at restaurants (“I’d like the salmon salad, and I need you to personally use Dijon mustard to draw a smiley face on every lettuce leaf because my psychic tells me I’m allergic to bad vibes”), and then get mad at the waiter for inevitably making a small mistake.

. . .say things like “Do you know who I am?” and “Is there anyone here who isn’t a moron?”

. . .think that being blunt and being honest is the same thing.

. . .text in movie theaters. Yes, we can all see you, even when you think you’re tucking it down low.

I don’t know where Mrs. Jerk is right now, but I hope that some time later, when she’s speeding through a school zone in her Hummer, she thinks about what she learned from a patient secretary and tweedy professor who refused to be bullied.

Also, when she was walking away, I stuck my tongue out at her, and the secretary giggled. So, yeah. I was pretty awesome.