Sometimes, during class, I power on my laptop and am blasted by the sound of the Windows welcome chime.
As if they were unaccustomed to such strange sounds, many of my classmates turn their heads and stare at me or my computer in utter bewilderment, sometimes for seconds at a time. They seem to say, in earnest appeal, “excuse me sir, but were you aware that there are sounds emitting from your laptop?”
In these circumstances, I like to wave my hand and smile back at them, as if to politely say: “Thank you so very much for your concern. Yes, indeed there were sounds emitting from my laptop. Your ears serve you well. But everything is all right now. The problem has been identified and I’ve got the situation under control. Thanks.”
To avoid this classroom disturbance altogether, I have made it a habit to disable all sounds on my laptop before packing it away for class. On the rare occasion that I fail to remember whether I turned the sounds off, I realize it just a split-second after turning the power on. This comprehension is often proceeded by a brief internal facepalm, then a preemptive maneuver: quickly, I hover my finger over the mute button on my keyboard.
The mute button will not work until the operating system is partially booted so I strain my ear very carefully to listen for the beginning of the chime, as to be ready for its muting. I also hover my finger over the mute button which, like a scorpion’s stinger, becomes poised to strike.
My mind, however, is something far less poised.
At this point I am unsure whether I left the volume on high or low … or whether the volume was left on at all—whether there truly is a crisis at-hand—whether my classmates will notice—whether the professor cares—whether the mute button really works—whether the weather is nice outside—whether—whether I am not going COMPLETELY MAD!
My finger is now twitching over the mute button. It is not a scorpion’s stinger but a rattler’s tail! The suspense is mindblowing.
I uneasily look around at my classmates who are all engaged in various remedial tasks: scribbling in notebooks, twirling pens, staring up at the ceiling, whispering amongst themselves and – in some rare cases – paying attention.
They are unaware of the crisis which looms over their heads.
To me they are a city full of unsuspecting Japanese, calmly making their early morning commute in suits and tie—only seconds before a giant green lizard jumps out of the ocean and pulverizes their precious metropolis into a fine dust.
Only I have the power to prevent this disaster. I am like Mothra … or King Kong.
But what if – when that moment comes – my finger should slip and miss the mute button entirely? Will the disturbance create a ripple effect capable of altering the foundations of reality, changing the course of history, and unraveling the very fabric of the time-space continuum?
As these thoughts are flooding through my head, people start leaving their seats.
I should have been paying attention. I should have been listening. Because, If I had, I surely would have heard my professor dismiss the class early. And I am certainly glad he did because I missed the button entirely.