As if a professor had used my paper as an absorbent coaster when his coffee dripped down the side of his mug, one returned essay had been imprinted with a perfectly-ringed coffee stain. On another occasion, the same professor had streaked a works cited page with what looked to be ketchup. I didn't sniff to check.
In light of this, I try to be careful with my students' papers. When I sat down at my kitchen table on Friday and Saturday nights with a stack of essays and a brimming glass of ice water (yes, I live on the edge), I cautiously pushed my drink aside while writing. Perhaps due to my current reliance on typing, my handwriting has deteriorated noticeably from a consistent and tight font that garnered compliments to one that's choppily scrawled and prone to drop off at the end of words and require cross-outs.
I don't love this. The one compensation for the bad handwriting that I can offer my students is that at least I avoid spills.
However, I do occasionally put essays where I shouldn't, like when I left a stack of them on the kitchen table overnight. The next morning the girls ate breakfast and turned their attention to coloring. They were being cute. The camera was sitting on the counter, and I snapped a quick picture (note the essays in the foreground), and then diverted my attention to feeding the baby her rice cereal... and then to unloading the dishwasher... and then to sweeping the morning's fallen cereal from under the chairs.
Only then did I lift my eyes long enough to notice that one child (the one hiding her face for anonymity), had decided to brighten an essay in her distinctive two-year-old Crayola scribble.
I'll explain this to the student when I return the essays. Crayon is better than ketchup, right?