I have survived the first day of school.
I wish I could post some humorous anecdote about how a freshman did something strange or stupid, or a cynical one about how I’ve already identified who’ll be my “resident jackass” for the term, but I can’t. For a first day, it was surprisingly quiet and orderly, the only disruptions being the students who could not find their assigned classrooms – a by-product of a room numbering system that few understand, probably even as they were creating it.
I could not sleep the night before, a combination of nerves, anxiety, and my rather sudden decision to stop taking Tylenol PM. As a result, despite my best efforts of hitting the sack early – for me – at 10 pm, my travels through Slumberland came to an end by 1 am. Try as I might, I could not go back to sleep, and by 3:30 am, I’d decided that I might as well get out of bed. I checked e-mails, looked for any last-minute school-related news, and roamed the Internet, still drowsy, but not enough to put me out.
Traditionally, I leave for work much earlier than necessary. I don’t have to be on campus until 9:45 am, but typically, I leave home at about 7 am. This gives me a lot of wiggle-room on the off-chance that there’s a problem on the Interstate, and it allows me to take care of any class prep without rushing around like a maniac. Photocopies and class handouts, for example, which could have easily been completed weeks earlier, are almost always run the morning of their distribution, and I’ve grown tired of fighting with colleagues over who’s going to be the first to use the only functioning copier on our floor. It’s just easier to go in a little earlier than necessary and get things done before the craziness starts. More importantly, though, the extra time allows me time to be alone with my thoughts.
My trek into work was uneventful, and I even managed to secure a pretty good parking space for once. I collected my things, locked the car, and took a deep breath as I faced one of the campus buildings.
I should point out that I use a campus parking lot that is pretty far from my office. Not the farthest away – that would be darn-near suicidal – but pretty far; I usually explain that this is a way to force me to walk, thus gaining me my only real exercise for the day. Campus is spread out – I would posit that walking a full circuit would be at least one mile, and goodness knows that I walk two or three of those a day. But the benefit only works if you continue doing the walks, something I’ve not been doing at all. I knew I was going to be in trouble when I finally made it to the door – after leaving my car: Tomorrow, my legs are just gonna love me.
Most of my first-day prep was done a week ago, meaning that all I really had to do was to print out my class rosters and collect my accumulated mail. Two new books awaited me, one I’d forgotten I’d ordered, and one that a publisher sent as a gift. Book catalogues were also in the pile, as were invitations to summer campus functions, fundraisers, and a note about a colleague’s retirement send off that occurred a couple of months ago. I secured new dry erase markers for the white board. Facilities will bring new markers for each room for the first day, but many faculty members see them as gifts of the “Have none/Take one” variety, and a classroom that’s filled with new markers on the first day is like a mortally wounded antelope that’s wandered into Vulture City. It’s best to just get your own set – the nice ones in the room today will (very) likely not be there tomorrow.
I used to have a small office coffee pot. I didn’t take a liking to coffee until about six years ago. I’d had it off-and-on in my life, but it was never a part of my day until I’d gotten a coffee pot as a gift for the Little Woman. She barely used it, informing me only later that she’d wanted an espresso machine, to which I responded, “There’s a difference?” Well, not being one to let my investment – all eleven dollars – go to waste, I decided to use it for myself . . . and promptly became hooked.
One morning I cam to work to discover that an infestation of ants had targeted my small office coffee pot (by the hundreds, I kid you not). I’d left about a cup of clean water in the glass coffee pot; the next day, I returned to see what appeared to be a fresh pot of java. It was only when I picked it up that I realized that this wasn’t coffee, or even brown water; it was hundreds of dead ants that had marched to their doom, believing that there was something in that water for them. Notice the plural – not “a hundred,” but “hundreds.” Bye-bye nice small coffee pot; hello, electric kettle. The kettle was great, especially since I started moving away from coffee, and back towards my traditional tea. But after three years, my trusty plug-in tooted her last toot, and a successor needed to be found.
Alas, the kingdom was lacking: I hadn’t found what I wanted by this point, so I was forced to rely on one of the campus coffee stands. The one nearest my office is the one I like the least; the worker who mans that station is okay, but certainly doesn’t emit warmth or invite anything but the most basic civility. Actually, she used to growl at me. I’m serious. No clue as to why she acts that way; I can’t hazard a guess, but I’ve never known her to growl at anyone else, either. Fortunately, I only needed hot water, and to make sure she knew I wasn’t stealing coffee, I pointed out that I only needed hot water. Ordinarily, I’d have put the tea bag inside my cup to pour the water over the bag – like you’re supposed to – but I’d have to forego that detail if I wanted to avoid being accused of stealing tea. I’m telling you, it’s not easy being me. Coffee Lady stared and glared at me the whole time, but I got my water – and then got out of there.
Satiated with a cup of green peach-mango tea, I went to my classroom – with still nearly an hour before my first class – and set up my computer. Checked the overhead projection, and made sure that the screen was in working order. First day is unofficially known as “Syllabus Day,” meaning that after the initial introduction and roll-call, the only thing we’ll do is review the syllabus so that everyone knows the class rules. It’s generally a short day, often lasting half of a normal class period. I’d probably use up 3/4 of a period, but it still wouldn’t be a full session. No matter, with thirty minutes before my first batch of students arrived, I took one last look around the room, checked over my papers, and decided that I was ready. Before I knew it, it was 10 am, and I took my second deep breath of the day.