I Am the Professor

By Sallie W. Boyles

I had a disturbing experience. 

After several years of relying on a professional’s expertise, I was stunned by the bizarre comment he made to shut me up mid-sentence. 

He’d asked a question about how I intended to handle a certain matter. The item under consideration did not fall within the services he provided to me as a client, although one could argue an indirect connection existed. Therefore, I could have told him it was not something I wanted to discuss with him. My plan would not impact him, and it was none of his business. 

Nevertheless, I’d known him long enough to inform him of my intention and rationale. My reasons were not merely my opinions. As a journalist, I regularly perform exhaustive research and vet my sources. In this instance, I produced undisputed facts that I cited. 

With each point I offered, however, he responded, “So what?” 

Trust me, there was no so what about anything I brought up. Moreover, I was the “customer” in this relationship. Even if my decision stemmed from opinions or gut feelings, his disparaging words and tone were inappropriate. 

I can’t imagine telling a client of mine, “That comma rule is irrelevant, you fool!”

His petulant, arrogant attitude caught me off guard, and that—along with the Southern manners my mother ingrained in me—prevented me from firing back. (When I mentally revisit the encounter, I say, “So what? You sound like a child!”) Instead, I politely questioned a statement he made to support his view. That’s when he cut me off and said, “Don’t say anything else. You’ve talked enough. I am the professor.” 

Granted, he once taught classes related to his specialty, but I never paid this man to be my teacher—thank goodness! How many students sat through his lectures in silence, nodding and refraining from expressing an original question or thought to avoid his wrath? 

This unpleasant side of his personality reminded me of robots from old TV shows. Failing to reason when challenged, they’d blow their gaskets, causing sparks to fly, as they repeated, “Does not compute!” 

In a similar fashion, this so-called authority (who is no longer my go-to resource) displayed a flaw that is pervasive today: an unwillingness to listen with an open mind. 

People who seek truth and knowledge have no compulsion to silence information that is contrary to what they previously gathered and believed. They further know when to lecture and when to learn from others.

My best to you,

Sallie W. Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady


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