S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

First Day of Class

Last term, on the first day of class at a new university, I could describe notable moments, the terrain, the geography, the air. (I'm tempted to say the terroir - what vintage of university do you go to or work at?) If I did this for this term by physical analogy, yesterday would have gone something like this:
I showed up at the university first thing in the morning only to find the main gates were barred shut. There was no information saying when it would be open again and no one else was around. I figured that the administration was too busy dealing with rush of new staff and students to fix the bolt which held the gates locked for a few hours. After an hour of waiting, it started to rain. I hadn't brought my umbrella. By mid-afternoon, the gates were open as if nothing had happened. It's a good thing the university doesn't offer morning classes. I have a deep-seated suspicion that the gates will be locked at random times of day every few weeks for the rest of the semester.

I located my assigned classroom (It's a nice, clean, modern one, complete with overhead and digital projector) and found it empty except for a note from the administration and a bunch of chairs. The note said that I needed to tell them who my students were, so they could send them all notes telling them where the correct classroom was. Since I don't have my ID card yet, I couldn't get the student office to tell me who my students were, and my telepathic skills aren't good enough to compensate for lack of ID card, so I had to ask the chair of the department to do it for me - on the first day of class.

A few hours later (it's a good thing I brought other work to do with me!), a messenger brought me a note saying that my students had all been sent information on where their classroom was, thanks to the chair's help, and that they would all be showing up eventually, assuming they'd gotten their mailbox keys yet. By this time, I had mostly dried off from the rain earlier. I wandered off to the cafeteria, but came back to look into my classroom now and again. No one else tried to use it. They must have a lot of classrooms on this campus. Now and again, I rearranged the chairs.

By the time it was nearly midnight and I was about ready to go home and go to sleep, having spent the entire day and evening on campus. I'm such a dedicated employee. Then, unexpectedly given the time of day one of my students had straggled in to the classroom. She thought that more would be on the way shortly, these students being particularly nocturnal beings. I left them a copy of my lecture notes and abandoned them to have class without me.

Fortunately, yesterday wasn't actually like this, or on any physical campus, but was all email and website updates. The textbooks aren't in yet, but isn't that almost a cliché of new semesters?

I met C. for dinner last night at the relatively local American-style barbecue place we've eaten at three or four times before. A new waitress was on duty. While waiting for C. to show up, I ordered a drink and demurred on ordering food yet.

"Are you from around here?", she asked me.
"Yes, less than a mile that way." I answered.
She looked confused for a moment. "No, I meant, from the states."
"Yes, I am." I answered, rather confused myself.
"Which state?"
"Iowa." That killed the conversation. Clearly she doesn't read Bill Bryson.
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