A guide to lecture etiquette
You might want to sit down for this
You wake up to a cold, gloomy wind hitting your face. Why does the wind have a personality you ask? Because at this ungodly hour, someone has to. You run to get ready, only to find your cereal has not magically refilled itself since yesterday, and are left with the one rotting banana that you scarf down mid-dash to your 9 am.
The cruel and taunting wind follows you as you half-sprint across Trumpington street, praying that the signal gods are ever in your favour and the cyclists forever out of your way. You worry about overtaking people that are too slow, you worry about being too slow for the people that want to overtake you. Finally, you make it, barely, only to find that someone is sitting in your row. Once again you fill up with dread when you ask yourself 'how many seats should I leave?'
If we can just agree on the Rules once and for all, you won't spend the entire day worrying about whether the person you didn't realise was entering the aisle thinks you're the rudest person in the faculty for dumping your jacket on the chair next to you just as they started to enter your row. You won't feel super guilty when you leave one chair on purpose choosing personal space over artificial sociability that dissolves over the sweet sweet words of 'we'll pick this up tomorrow'. Alas there is a solution. This comprehensive guide will ensure that never again will you make eye contact with the person entering your row only to have them sit an entire*five* seats away from you.
1. How many seats is it acceptable to leave?
If you leave none, you're a creep who doesn't respect personal space. Leaving one is very pointed ~ I've left a seat to leave a seat. Two/three might seem casual, but in reality this could translate to 'one seat just wasn't enough'. 5+ might seem super casual, but when your lecturer asks everyone to move inwards to make room for latecomers it’s going to be highly awkward to sit next to someone you just deemed a minimum 5 seat away person.
Alas the solution is simple. Make a big show of how heavy your bag is. Walk bag-front. Dump said bag loudly below seat next to person. Make sure it *thuds*. Exhale to prove how heavy it was. This ensures that the person a) knows that your bag is heavy enough to warrant its own personal seat space and b) thinks you're exhausted so will probably be nicer when it comes to sharing lecture handouts.
2. What if I need space to spread my things?
Very understandable if you're a coffee to the left, highlighters to the right sort of person. However, it will be awkward if someone asks you ‘is someone sitting here’ and you have to awkwardly scurry around to push everything on to your desk before it falls over and hits the person in front of you ‘so sorry do you mind’.
If you are a space hogger, at least have the decency to come early and mark your territory. Sit towards the edge of the row so you aren't blocking centre space. If you see a space needer having set up shop, just vacate, evacuate. You don't want to have to wait turn ten years for them to pack up and leave.
3. Can I use a seat for my jacket?
You may think this is an inane question, yet don't underestimate the hidden complexities. You put the jacket on a chair, but what if it gets cold and then you want your jacket but then the seat collapses back and everyone stares? Won't you blame yourself? Can you use a seat someone else has left for your jacket? If the lecture is packed, then fair game. Chairs are after all, made for bums not jackets. If there is space aplenty – then the message is pretty clear – go get your own space.
4. How long should I take to leave my seat?
Ideally as soon as the lecture is over especially if you’re blocking other people. There is literally nothing worse than having your things spread out over three desks and then making people wait while you arrange your highlighters in colour coded order and artfully wrap around your tasseled aquamarine shawl and throw things into your slightly faded tan tote. Just say ‘sorry’ (always say sorry even if you aren’t at fault, it makes people see you as weak and timid and who wants to be friends with the dominant wildebeest) and move out so you can let people leave.
5. What about drinks + snacks during the lecture?
Coffee is always a pro, let me have my third coffee of the morning vicariously through you. Opening things in wrappers is always annoying – unwrap them before you enter – even more annoying if you try to do it super discreetly because then people will hear crinkle sounds for a good five minutes. Do not keep your coffee right next to my laptop, my fear of it falling will make it fall and then I will sue you.
And here you go friends: abide by these rules, and though I cannot promise you that your lectures will be amazing, fascinating, or that you will understand all (or even any) of it, at least it should all go swimmingly.