Last week, I found myself in a hostage (or, at least, hostile) situation. Fortunately, my life wasn’t being hijacked — just my time. The perpetrator? A dad — I’ll call him The Dad — at my kid’s Back To School Night. His M.O.? Interrupting the teacher’s lively, informative and impressive B2SN presentation with a lecture about Google’s intolerable (in his mind) copyright infringements.

Our kids’ English teacher is a young, energetic, nerdishly hip dude who I was already picturing as a lifelong mentor, role model and friend for my son. He had precisely ten minutes to tell us (a group of eager, expectant and optimistic freshman parents) what we and our precious children could expect from this year’s Language Arts class. It was our first time in the classroom, and it was our only chance to hear from the guy who will be spending hours each week guiding and instructing our kids. It was no small feat that in less time than it takes to unload the dishwasher this teacher reassured, informed and inspired us. He made us think, pause, consider and even smile.

In fact, I was smiling as I gathered my notepaper and prepared to rush to the next classroom. That’s when The Dad announced The Problem. “Every time these kids use Google Classroom, Google gets to copyright their work,” he grumbled loudly. “All these original ideas go straight to Google. It’s not right,” he griped. “Doesn’t happen with Microsoft.”

Now, The Dad may well be right. He strikes me as the kind of guy who reads every word of the online agreements before clicking “agree.” As a gal who simply “agrees,” I really don’t know. But here’s what I do want to know: What exactly did The Dad imagine happening when he bellyached to our dedicated, hard-working, underpaid educator closing in on an exhausting 12-hour day? Did The Dad picture him saying, “You are absolutely right. I’ll change my entire classroom organization and group communication system pronto. Probably the entire school, if not the whole district, will, too. So thanks for that. You really saved the day.”

I wonder, did The Dad share his opinion of Google with all the teachers that night? The thing is, griping about Google or any other matter is really no big deal on most occasions. But Back To School Night is not “most occasions.” In school districts across the nation, B2SN is a precisely timed orchestration of movement and information requiring the tacit consent of hundreds of slightly lost, slightly overwhelmed parents to quickly and efficiently navigate an unfamiliar campus settling into darkness while heeding this reminder: “Due to the brevity of the classroom visits, this is not the time to discuss questions about individual students.” I think it’s safe to assume this is not the time to lecture teachers is also implied.

I’m certain The Dad knew this. And while I’m sure his fears about the Google Machine stealing freshmen English 101 notes are well founded, B2SN was not the time to raise such issues. In the future (because I kind of suspect this will come up again), maybe The Dad would consider emailing (with Outlook, not Google, obviously) the teacher with his concerns. He might make an appointment to discuss his worries at a time that’s mutually convenient. Perhaps The Dad could pick up the phone. Leave a message. I’m sure he’d get a call back real soon.

Do I seem unreasonably annoyed? Perhaps. But I’ve witnessed versions of this behavior So. Many. Times. To wit:

The writing workshop. A guest editor invites brief questions from the audience about the publishing process. The Writer grabs the mic and explains at great length why his delightful grandson no longer believes in Santa and how this inspired his latest manuscript, followed by a detailed synopsis.

The painting class. The Painter (the only male student in a classroom of women) makes his evening rounds, stopping at every easel to loudly pontificate about the work in progress. His feedback usually consists of vague, one-word utterances such as, “F — k!”

The discussion forum. During the audience Q&A, The Expert stands in a very long line of fellow questioners. Once at the mic, he launches into a mini lecture intended to highlight his own knowledge of the subject at hand. Eventually, The Expert asks a question — but by now, everyone’s time is up.

Given these instances and numerous others, for me Back To School Night was yet another irksome experience of having my time and interests hijacked by someone who seems oblivious to the concept of right time and place, let alone the notion that sometimes, neither one exists.

I’ll end my rant with a heartfelt plea to The Dad, The Writer, The Painter, The Expert and all their brethren: Next time you’re dying to share an uninvited or pointless commentary, please pause first. Take a deep breath. Exhale. Now quietly remind yourself that our time — yours and mine — is precious.

No hijacking allowed.

Willow Older is a nationally and internationally published writer and a long-time professional editor. She lives in Northern California where she runs her own editorial services business and publishes a weekly newsletter called Newsy!.

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