While Marlborough does not officially have assigned seats, there is a strong social expectation that students sit in the same seats for the whole year. Over the course of my Marlborough career, I have upset countless people by sitting in different seats in class and I have earned a reputation as a seat-stealer.
Classmate James Irons, a frequent victim of my seat theft, laments: “Without the leftmost desk in C225, what am I? Half a human? A person in part? A mere section of a scholar? Seeing that seat occupied by another is like watching someone walk away with your face.”
After failed attempts to explain my behavior in the heat of the moment, I feel the time has come to properly address the reasoning behind my public infamy.
Contrary to what one might guess, my switching seats is not motivated by a sadistic desire to ruin someone’s day or sabotage them before a roundtable discussion (although that would be an interesting strategy). Usually, the excitement I feel from finding a good empty seat transforms to dread when I anticipate the backlash of my decision. I ask myself whether the seat is worth losing a friend or two. (Usually it is; at this point, what’s a few more straws on the camel’s back?)
Like any renegade, I didn’t set out to disrupt the status quo. The beginning of my commitment to switching seats can be traced back to one day in chem class.
I was often the last to arrive to class, and thus forced to take the only open seat between the last row of chairs and the lab stations. However by some miracle that day, I arrived early to class and found an open seat in the middle of the center row (prime real estate). I embraced the opportunity, only to return from the bathroom to find a galling level of treachery: the usual occupant of the seat had moved my things to the seat I was normally relegated to in the back. While I had respect for the savagery of this move, I was shook by the realization that unless something changed, I would be confined to the same seats for the rest of my life.
By that point, the lesson had started, so I cut my losses and took notes in the back, except instead of Avogadro’s Law…I outlined how I would overthrow the system.
My mission thus began: as we do not have assigned seats, I would simply continue to sit in whatever seat was open.
Whether you think of switching seats as seat-theft like James Irons or “a miserable game of musical chairs” like Charlotte Gendler, it seems wrong to accept that a rigid social expectation prevents us from having the freedom to choose any seat. I understand what frustrates people is the butterfly effect that someone switching seats has on the entire classroom dynamic. When one person switches their seat, friend groups have to re-coordinate their seating and the entire system is disrupted. But isn’t this kind of a good thing?
It’s easy to go through Marlborough sticking to the same routine every day. For some this may bring comfort to a highly stressful environment. For others, like me, sitting in the same seat becomes monotonous and isolating.
I feel assigning seats or simply sitting in the same place every day by choice is limiting to the perspective that can be gained in school. I’m not talking about the literal perspective of being able to see the board without craning your neck or squinting to read the little text from the back. Rather, a deeper social perspective is gained by sitting next to different people.
I hope that my extra-ness in seat choice serves some purpose, and perhaps even sets an example that normalizes switching seats.