Column: At Least the Dog Didn’t Eat It By Susan Parker

Tuesday October 11, 2005

I forgot my homework, but it wasn’t my fault. Getting ready to go to an MFA workshop at San Francisco State last week, I got distracted and left my assignment in the house. It wasn’t my fault because there was a lot going on at the very moment I needed to leave. I had to run in order to catch the #15 bus. I had to sprint up the MacArthur Station stairs to meet the Daly City-bound train. It was not until I’d caught my breath, somewhere between the 12th Street and West Oakland stations, that I realized my mistake. 

I forgot my homework because Teddy and Eric were replacing the wheelchair ramp on the side of our house and just before departing for school I’d become totally engrossed in the merits of two-inch, $54-a-sheet, pressure-treated plywood. 

“We need four more sheets,” Teddy had said, “so give me another $200.” 

“I’m late for school,” I’d answered. “I’ll go to the ATM on campus and bring it home with me tonight.” 

I forgot my homework because in addition to Teddy and Eric distracting me with thoughts of plywood and money, my neighbor Che was upstairs in my bedroom trying to fix my computer. 

“I think the problem is with your software,” he’d said as I was rummaging through my papers, gathering up pens and notebooks. “It’s not the hardware. I’ve checked the connections, looked at the modem and the hubs, replaced some memory, and talked with several people in India.” 

“Just keep working on it,” I’d said. “You don’t need to tell me what’s wrong because I don’t understand a thing about it and, frankly, I don’t want to. I’ve got to leave for school now. We’ll settle up when I get home.” 

I went downstairs, but before I could escape, Andrea requested a quick loan, and Ralph asked me to move his arms and legs one more time. I pulled down the blankets covering him, rearranged his limbs, kissed him good-by, and fled. 

After the initial shock of discovering I’d forgotten my homework, I needed to come up with a plan. What was I going to tell my professor, that I didn’t bring it because of Teddy, Eric, Che, Andrea, and Ralph? Because of 2-inch pressure-treated plywood, bad software, small loans, and arms and legs that needed rearranging? 

I remembered there was a young man in my class who lived in the East Bay and sometimes gave me lifts home from school. If I could get in touch with him, maybe he could help with this homework crisis. I didn’t have his phone number, but I knew where he worked, and that his girlfriend worked there, too. I didn’t know her name, but, hell, I was desperate. I dialed information just before the train hurtled under the bay. I wasn’t able to reconnect until we came up for air after the Balboa Park stop. David wasn’t at work so I spoke with his girlfriend. I told her about my missing homework and asked for David’s cell phone number. She gave it to me, and then had second thoughts. 

“Who are you again?” she asked. I re-explained, hung up, and called David. Could he bring me my homework if I had it delivered to him before he left for school? Yes, he said. He’d be at Café Rouge on 4th Street for the next half hour. 

By now the train was at the Daly City station. I called my house as I ran down the steps and sprinted into the street to catch the shuttle bus. I asked Che to look for the forgotten assignment. Was it on my desk? Of course not. Downstairs on the dining room table? No. Had I left it outside while talking with Teddy and Eric? No. Was it mixed-up in the sheets and blankets on Ralph’s bed? Negative. In the bathroom, on the attic steps, in a trashcan? 

Finally, Che found it underneath a library book. He promised to deliver my homework to David. I hung up the phone just as the bus reached campus. 

As I got off the shuttle, several fellow commuters wished me luck with my assignment. I was no longer just another anonymous shuttle bus-riding co-ed. I was the old lady who had forgotten her homework.