Thursday, September 15, 2011

On The Issue Of...

...Making it to class on time…

You see, this is all very familiar to me, though it’s been a while. I finished the undergraduate portion of my university life at the end of 2009. We now find ourselves eight-and-a-half months through 2011. In economic terms, we are in the third quarter. If the calendar year were a game of hockey, we’d be a few minutes into the third period. In soccer, well…who cares, right? My point is that it’s been nearly two full years since I stepped foot on a university campus for any sort of meaningful or lawful purpose.

I’ve been back in school for precisely 9 days. The transition from being a part-time professional tickler to a full-time student has had its trials, though I’ve mostly experienced the transition in a seamless manner – the same smooth efficacy that you’d expect from an expensive watch, the Swiss rail system, or a Steve Nash no-look scoop pass. I’ve diligently purchased my textbooks, completed required course readings, and engaged with my professors in a manner you’d expect from a student who takes his newfound responsibilities seriously. I’ve even got myself a day-planner. Yes, I feel like I am now important – and busy – enough to structure my days by the iron fist of the rigid, oppressive agenda – the same tool that we all knew and loathed in middle school.

The part of school that I can’t seem to grasp is the concept of arriving to class – or any commitment, for that matter – on time. As of last evening I had arrived to every class, meeting, orientation, luncheon, and informal drop-in party late. I’ve never been much for punctuality, but my so-far flawless record of tardiness is also uncharted territory for me. Like any respectable lad, I usually try to play the middle. So far, not so good.

And so I found myself at 11:20am this morning, rushing out the door to make it to class. The fact that I live just over ten minutes from campus surely doesn’t help me get out of the house on time. Do you know how much you can accomplish between 11:08 and 11:20am? Not a whole hell of a lot. Certainly less than you think. In fact, it’s somewhere between nothing and trying to brush your teeth while eating almonds and fiddling with your iPod; desperately scrolling to find that perfect nut-gnashing, teeth-scrubbing, soul-invigorating jam that you were blasting the last time you found yourself in this outrageous predicament.

At 11:21 you kick down the door of your apartment, veer left and punch the elevator button an inch into the concrete wall. Inevitably the elevator takes what feels like an eternity to crawl to the eighth floor. Mercifully, it grinds its way to the top, doors blasting open so aggressively that you begin to wonder if you should really board this vintage lift, or just settle for the stairs. Of course, a split second after the first elevator threateningly announces its presence, the one right next to it gently opens, beckoning you inside with its elegant faux-wood paneling.

Being a man of adventure, you shun the gentle elevator in favour of its boisterous kin. It proves the wise choice, as you arrive at the ground floor of your apartment in record time, left wondering whether the elevator was in free fall or if the ancient beastliness of the car’s interior is simply a disguise for the post-modern technology they’ve recently installed in the building. You opt to forget about it in favour of again fiddling with your iPod, this time in an attempt to put on some serious fast-walking music. You intend to make it to class on time, and you’re gonna get all the help you can manage from good ol’ Zach de la Rocha and comrades.

You make it to campus without incident. The highlight: a middle aged woman smiles at you. She may have blurted out some sort of pleasantry regarding your $4 purple sunglasses, but your Olympic-calibre speed walk meant you couldn’t quite decipher exactly what was said. And you sure as hell weren’t about to stop and ask her to repeat herself. You do know one thing: you’ve got an ally in this world. You begin to quicken your gait. You’re gonna make it.

Campus. The Gauntlet. The real test. You pass under the OC Transpo underpass, which has recently been segregated into bike lanes and pedestrian lanes. In spite of the fact you could make some serious headway by walking in the bike lane, you decide that if you were on a bike, you would run yourself over just for allowing such a thought to cross your mind. You deferentially move to the right. After passing a couple of giggling sloths, you dodge the garbage can planted squarely in the middle of your lane, and needle your way through the throng of people gathered at the end of the tunnel.

You bound up the steps and into the sea of chaos that is the University of Ottawa campus at the start of lunch hour. Somebody immediately bumps into you. “Sorry, bro.” Right. Turn your collar down.

Neglecting for a fleeting moment that you’re late, you stop to survey the scene and draw up your plan of attack. All you see are breasts. What is wrong (right!) with these girls? Absolutely nothing, you decide, and you lurch abruptly forward, forgetting what it was you had stopped for. Now you are distracted, but with good cause.

You ask yourself: “can I cut through the library to get to my class?” Yes, but remember that you’ve never been in the library and you are therefore 100 percent guaranteed to get lost. You opt to take the long way, right into the army of shills trying in vain to get you to become a member of the society of Nobody-Cares-About-This-Cause-Except-Us.

“Excuse me, do you have a minute to talk?”

“Yes I do! You must know by the way I have my headphones jammed into my ears to the point that they’re bleeding; the fact that I’m trying desperately to avoid eye contact with anyone; and the walking pace that I’ve adopted, inspired by what I want to do to your neck!”

He gets the point and gets out of the way, narrowly dodging the forearm shiver you direct at his pointy chin.

You blast down the final straightaway, careening past the first years who think not showering and wearing sweatpants to class is a unique fashion statement, take a quick exhale of cigarette smoke to the face, and scale the nine steps to your final destination. As you turn down the volume on the seductive crooning of Adam Levine (who the hell put this thing on shuffle?) you note the time: 11:29am. It only took a dozen tries, but you’ve done it. You’re on time.

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