By Tom Hardesty | Assistant Sports Editor
One of the first assignments I was given when I hired in at the Record-Courier 20 years ago was to cover a lecture by a Japanese sports expert given to a Kent State University honors class.
The topic of the lecture was sports in Japan and their impact on Japanese history and culture, and I was to sit in on his lecture and write a story for the next day’s R-C.
Having not attended Kent State, I wanted to make sure I arrived in plenty of time to get a seat in the classroom and prepare for the lecture. The classroom was located in the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center building, and I received what looked like detailed instructions on where exactly in the M.A.C. Center the classroom was located.
Paranoid I would arrive late, I made sure to leave early for campus and give myself plenty of time to find the classroom.
Upon arriving at KSU, however, I quickly discovered that empty parking spaces there were every bit as elusive as at my alma mater, the University of Akron (which, quite frankly, I did not think was possible).
I finally found a spot, but the search cost me valuable time -- time, it turned out, I was going to need in the M.A.C. Center. The directions to the classroom were not nearly as detailed as they had seemed earlier and, as I wandered around inside the building searching for the room -- growing more frustrated by the minute.
It became painfully obvious I was not going to make it before the lecture started.
My worst fears had been realized.
I continued to search, and the clock continued to tick. At this point the lecture would be several minutes in, and I strongly considered just throwing my hands up and heading back to the car.
Just as I was about to give up, though, I stumbled upon the room.
By now, the lecture was about 10 minutes old, and I was faced with a dilemma: Open the classroom door and disrupt the lecture, or turn around and call it a day.
Option No. 2 didn’t seem like much of an option, however.
I had only been working at the Record-Courier for a couple weeks, and I was fairly certain that blowing off an assignment after just getting hired would be frowned upon by R-C sports editor Tim Houser.
I had to go in.
And here’s how I was going to do it: I would slip in quietly and simply slide into a seat in the back row near the door, thereby drawing almost no attention to myself whatsoever.
Having reassured myself that this wasn’t going to be so bad, I grabbed the doorknob, pulled the door open, took about two steps -- and brought the lecture to a screeching halt.
Every student -- roughly 30 of them, I surmised -- immediately whipped their heads around toward the door to see who was disrupting the proceedings.
As I felt the searing heat of 60 eyeballs boring through me, I realized that the entire room had fallen deathly silent. I was living my worst-case scenario.
I stood there awkwardly, book bag slung over my shoulder, nervously scanning the rows of seats for somewhere to sit, cognizant of the fact that every student in the room was wondering who I was and what was I doing there.
There was one empty seat left -- and, to my horror, it was located directly in front of the podium at the front of the room (apparently they had been expecting my arrival).
Now I was forced to take the all-too-quiet walk of shame all the way to the front of the room, then turn right and walk to the middle of the room -- all done with the entire class of students intently watching my every move.
If there had been a hole in the floor, I would have crawled into it. Because of the silence, each step I took sounded like hammer striking nail.
Thoroughly embarrassed, I finally reached my seat -- but the fun wasn’t over yet.
Now I had to take off my winter coat -- which meant unzipping it -- and next, I had to take my notebook and ink pen out of my book bag -- which meant unzipping that, too.
Great. More noises to echo throughout the classroom.
Finally, I was ready. The man at the podium looked up at the students and said, “OK, like I was saying ... “
And I sat there for nearly 45 minutes almost incapable of thinking about anything but what a complete fool I had just made of myself.
But it wasn’t a total loss: Because of that day, I can always say I was in a college honors class.