Nick's Journal
2007-10-17 22:45:17 (UTC)

Learned Helplessness

every now and again god decides to punish me for not
believing in him. his punishment comes in the form of a bus
that is 30 minutes late filled with stinking homeless people
(and i mean stinking in the most literal sense of the word).
last night, after 8 hours in the law library and spending
the past 3 hours in class i prayed to the god i don't
believe in to please not let the bus not come at 9 pm.
no dice.
9:30 rolled around, i had been standing in the freezing rain
for about half an hour. the door of the bus opened and a
stank musky smell hit me in the face. the smell is akin to
what a sauna must smell like if monkeys had just shat all
over it for about an hour. i was overwhelmed by the stank
and almost decided not to get on.
realizing that this was probably my last chance at getting
home i held my breath and entered.
i pushed through the murmuring homeless people crowded
throughout the bus. i finally found a seat next to another
homeless person and sat down.
there's a church up the road that lets homeless people in at
9:30 so the 9:00 bus doesn't have veyr many (if any)
homeless people because the church has a strict policy
against homeless people "waiting outside" or some shit like
that. so the homeless have to time it just right.
so as i sat there i learned a lot about these shelters from
the two sitting in front of me.
apparently you have to get to the shelters at 9:30 on the
dot, they do certain checks on you (e.g. make sure you're
not drunk and believe in god) and then admit you through
this line where you get food and then a blanket and a bed.
there are apparently just a very limited number of spaces
and the churches are the most hallowed of all homeless
shelters because, in the words of the man in front of me,
"dey don't be stealin' yo shit and you aintgotsta worry bout
no knife fights...although it's just a damn shame that you
gotsta worry about knife fights anyhow cos dey udder centahs
is supposed to be checkin' yo fo any whepuns."
so the church is quite desireable. the problem is that
about half the homeless people are too overzealous in their
anxiety of being able to make it into the church that they
get off one stop too early at this baptist church (the
baptists don't care enough about the homeless to let them in
at night).
within seconds of realizing their error they start freaking
out and run next to the bus pounding on its side to let them
back on.
if the bus driver is nice he'll do so, but if he's not (like
last night) those suckas are out of luck.
then comes the mad dash out of the bus at the correct stop.
if you have to get off on this stop, just chill. you will
get hurt. this one lady got pushed down the steps and the
bus driver is so happy to get them out that he almost runs
over them if they hit the ground.
then you watch the schizophrenic shuffling of about 40 some
people all covered in blankets with plastic bags all around
which brings me to learned helplessness. when a law student
gets called on there are normally three responses.
first there is the law student who is on his game (normally
named nick and austrian) who answers the question succinctly
yet poignantly.
second there is the guy who wishes he could be like nick and
instead of just admitting it and handing it over to the
superior nick student he decides to degrade himself and the
legal profession by stumbling through some bullshit that
just makes me want to vomit.
third are the ones who have succumbed to learned
helplessness. they don't know what's going on and readily
admit it just to push the glaring spotlight of shame away
from them. their responses are normally,
"i didn't read it."
silence. either absolute silence or some stuttering.
normally the last group is let off easily and the teacher
moves on to someone else, well except for my real estate
transaction teacher.
he'll sit on one of those helpless law students with all the
weight of an elephant. if they are quiet he'll be really
quiet, to the point where it just gets uncomfortable. if
they say pass, he'll start circumnavigating their evasive
tactics with follow-up questions.
the worst though was last night, when i swear to god this
guy tried to "out-silence" him.
the whole class must have sat there in uncomfortable silence
for about 5 minutes. the teacher had his hands clasp before
him and just stared straight at him, not offering to repeat
the question (as he had done so already thrice) and not
helping him at all.
it was dead silent.
he just kept on shocking the poor dog who had shown his belly.