Can I just say how weird it to be treated like a professor after a decade of being the lowest of low dudes on the academic totem pole? At my department in Pretty Important University they enact this totem pole physically in our building — the department offices are on the top floor, with the most powerful faculty up there too. Then, the next floor down has the next most important, and on down until you hit the basement, where we graduate students are grudgingly allotted space with the centipedes. On the new campus, though, they don’t seem to know I spent the last ten years picking multi-legged insects out of my books whenever I take one off of the shelf in the office. Or if they do know, they don’t care. I got treated like I had a top floor office. It was so wonderful and very strange.
I was on my new campus yesterday (that I clearly have to come up with some identifying thing for because I’m getting all confused myself about which campus goes where) and I had to encounter a number of folk in the service sector and ask them for help. Without fail, each of these really great people dropped whatever it is they were doing to help me at the exact moment I asked. And, what’s more, they treated me like I was important and valuable — when in fact, I’m truly the expendable one and they are the ones doing the important work of the campus to keep it functioning. It was really mind-blowing.
For example, the head IT guy totally saved my whole work day. In the morning, I drove the hour it took to get me to get to new campus, but as soon as I unpacked my stuff when I got there, I realized that the Powerbook was out of batteries and I had left my damned charger in the Cage. I worked for a while doing stuff on paper, but it wasn’t feeling all that productive. Then Cleis called and she suggested I ask IT if they had an extra charger hanging around. They did and even offered to drive it across the parking lot for me. (!!!) Don’t worry, I walked over and got it. But, it would have never occurred to me that that kind of help would be out there for me. I simply cannot imagine being a grad student and asking for something similar. Then, not only did this great man let me use his charger, he spent about an hour helping me to set up my email, even though I know he had other things I’m sure he would rather be doing.
I also stopped in at the center for students with disabilities to check on what the accepted legalese is to put on the syllabus, because I couldn’t readily find it on the web. (Thanks to the Mom, I know how important this is.) The folk there seemed overjoyed that I had taken the time to come over, and a bit stunned that I even knew that there was a right way and a wrong way to talk about academic accommodations for students with learning issues. They introduced me to everybody in the office, and thanked me a million times for coming by. They seemed genuinely happy to have met me and to talk to me.
Compared to the way I’m usually treated on the other campus — as if I had stepped in something unspeakably nasty and tracked it in all over the fancy carpeting — it was amazing.