I have to admit, when I came back to school this fall I was a bit concerned. Okay, very concerned. I, like many of my classmates, was returning from my summer internship with a great deal of learning and insight into my career goals, yet completely empty-handed. No offer.
Naturally, I was afraid that the moment I stepped back on campus I would be subsumed in a sea of job stress. I feared we would all be pounding the pavement, poring over the HBS alumni directory, desperately seeking any glimmer of hope in the job market, searching for someone who might want us.
But, to my surprise, career anxiety quickly became a second-priority. There was something far more important occupying our every thought and conversation. It had us up at the crack of dawn. It had us huddled in corners at social events, strategizing and making secret pacts with our co-conspirators.
It was the pivotal question of where to sit in each class.
Yes, part of our newfound EC freedom is the ability to not only choose our classes, but also to select our seats. Most professors have instituted a policy such that on the first day after shopping period ends, whatever seat you grab is where you’ll stay for the rest of the semester.
And trust me; this is not a decision to take lightly.
Too many of us have lived through the sheer hell of the worm-deck for sixteen grueling weeks. Too many of us have sipped from the sweet nectar of the sky-deck.
So the questions abound. Should we sit in the center or to the side? Third or fourth row? Next to our friends or across from them (enabling the all-important eye-contact)? Who should we sit next to? Personally, I’m partial to the power deck, right field, aisle. Though I am willing to move in a few seats.
It’s a very delicate calculation. We want to be visible enough to get the professor’s attention if we raise our hands, yet out of his or her direct line-of-sight so as to avoid an unwelcome cold call. We all know the consequences of making a mistake in this pivotal decision.
Perhaps it’s the type A in all of us, but the seating frenzy phenomenon has caused quite a stir.
For those of us with class at 8:30 am, there is no limit to our insanity. Faced with the prospect of an empty classroom, we can only stare at our alarm clocks the night before and wonder, how early is early enough? Knowing that our classmates are just as compulsive as we are creates additional complexity.
We see many familiar faces at 8:00 am, scurrying to Aldrich and Hawes Hall. We exchange knowing glances, somewhat embarrassed to be giving in to our competitive, neurotic tendencies.
And what about classes later in the day? Unable to barge into classrooms early, we begin forming long, snaking lines through the halls, all of us just waiting to participate in the land grab for prime spots. One guy I know arrived an hour early for his 10:00 am class. “I had to save seats for five people,” he explained.
The effects have been disastrous.
I’ve heard of rifts developing between friends over broken promises. One classmate (who shall remain nameless), had made a pact with two of her friends to sit together, but upon entering the room became absolutely frazzled by the chaotic clamoring for seats, ditched the friends and shouted, “Every man for himself!”
And then there’s the physical violence. One friend of mine says she’s been knocked to the ground twice. Fights over the last seat in the skydeck are brutal.
The professors are clearly amused by our antics. I’ve heard of one dreadful scenario from a class in Hawes Hall: when faced with plenty of extra seats in the room, the professor actually made those in the sky-deck come down and sit in the worm-deck. Nightmare!
For me, the battle for seats has just begun; one class down, three to go. Wish me luck.