Mr. Hamm began his first day of class with the best of intentions. "Good morning, let's see, ten of you are here, but eleven are enrolled this semester. Does anyone know a Claude—"
"Yes, Mr. Hamm! We’re friends, hang on just a sec and I’ll bet I can find out where he is. . . ." The helpful young man grabbed his phone and stared at it in silence.
"Um, Ross, is it?"
"You said Claude is a friend?"
"And you know why he’s not here?"
"I’m checking on that, Mr. Hamm, I’m sure I can find out."
"'Checking?' I’m confused. Did he or did he not tell you where he’d be today instead of where he should be, here in class?"
"'Tell me,' sir? Oh! No, sorry, we’re not friends like hang-out-on-the-weekends friends. We’re just facebook friends . . . ah, here’s his profile, right, I thought I saw that post last night. He’s still in Prague, returning next week."
Mr. Hamm shook his head, unamused. "Well, alright then, let’s begin. As you all know, this class focuses on improvisation. Let’s begin today by discussing a famous group of improv actors, and then we can discuss any experience any of you have to date. Has anyone followed Christopher Guest's career?"
The question hardly left Mr. Hamm’s mouth before all ten students had their phones in hand, eyes peeled to small screens.
"Excuse me, but what are you all doing?" the teacher asked.
"Christopher Guest is the guy who did Best in Show and Spinal Tap and those other mockumentaries, right?"
Great, we're connecting, Mr. Hamm thought. "Yes, Ross, that’s right—"
"Well I searched and it doesn’t look like he has a twitter account. There are quite a few Christopher Guests on twitter, but none of them seem to be the famous one—"
"What?" Just when he thought he’d gotten through to them, Mr. Hamm was perplexed. "What are you talking about?"
"You asked whether any of us followed Christopher Guest, but I don’t think that’s possible. We can’t follow someone who doesn’t even use twitter!"
A muddled laugh ensued and Mr. Hamm spoke over it. "Alright! Forget it, we’ll discuss his work later today if we have time. Let’s just start with all of you and your experiences. Has anyone ever performed an improv act, and for whom? Yes, um, Gill, is it?"
"Yes, Mr. Hamm! I practiced some improv over the summer to get ready for this class."
Mr. Hamm beamed. "And how did it go?"
"It went alright, I guess, I did a short act for my grandmother."
"And what were some of her comments?"
"Oh, well," Gill frowned, "I did it for her in person, Mr. Hamm."
The teacher made an effort to locate his patience. "Of course you did, Gill, and what were some of her comments?"
Gill, growing nervous, looked around the room for support. "Like I said, Mr. Hamm, she was right there in the room. Just a few feet away, really I promise. . . ."
Mr. Hamm took a deep breath. "Okay, Gill, I understand, she was right there. And now please, I’ll ask one more time, what were her comments?"
The students all shook their heads, feeling sorry for Gill, who eventually said, "Mr. Hamm, I didn’t put it on youtube or facebook or anything like that, I just did it for her at her house. She made a pot of tea and—"
"Aha!" Mr. Hamm, half-crazed, laughed out loud just as Ross typed a three letter text message to Gill: LOL.