Wednesday, March 30, 2011


You may not have gathered, but I am currently enrolled in five community college classes. I wish I could say I was talking Flute 101 or Swahili as a part of a personal enrichment plan. But in reality I am taking these courses to fill general education requirements for my BSN from Bon Secours. 

I had absolutely no idea what community college would be like. I went to the College of Charleston, and luckily never had to take summer courses from community college or anything like that. The only frame of reference I had was the show, Community. As a result I was sure my experiences at J. Sarge would be wacky and mad-cap, with a dash of zany. I would be surrounded by colorful but lovable characters, and each week we would learn a valuable life lesson, while having plenty of FUN along the way.

I'm sorry, but that's the way my mind works. However, as it turns out, that's not the way community college works. I have yet to learn a valuable life lesson within the frame of a week (although to be fair there are still five weeks left in the semester). There's sadly no theme song (other than the one I sing in my head), but community college has provided its share of entertaining moments, alongside hours and hours and hours of my life spent trying not to fall asleep in various science classrooms. 

-The administration thinks we're all dirty thieves (including the professors). I have reached this conclusion based on the fact that the doors are always locked, and every single day I, and the rest of my class, will wait anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes for a security guide to amble on up to the sixth floor and let us in. Usually the professor waits with us too. Now I get being secure. Lord only knows in this world, it's good for colleges to focus on security. But there has to be a better system than the professor calling the security office and then waiting for who knows how long for an officer to actually show up. If there was a fire, would the response time be similar? This is the lab floor, so a fire is not exactly out of the realm of possibility. What if one of us pours acid into water instead of the proper route of water into acid (or is it the other way around, oops! I should probably have tried to remember it) and the room explodes (they never told us what dire consequences happened, only to NEVER do it, so my logical assumption is room explosion) What if there are chemical burns? Eye injuries? What if someone spills a sample of some horribly contagious disease? Do we just hang out then and wait for the security to take it's damn time responding, and hope we don't catch the plague in the meantime (you didn't know they store samples of the plague at community colleges?). This is worrying to me.

Also what are they really worried about us stealing? I mean this is a lab, but it's a community college lab. Sure we have things like microscopes (from 1956 judging on their appearance), but is someone really going to break into a lab, steal a bunch of (very heavy) 50s era microscopes and make a quick escape? And even if they did, is there really a black market for mid-century microscopes that I'm not aware of? Are people buying these things illegally to do illegal and rudimentary science experiments in their basements? Again, this is a mystery. But besides the microscopes, the only other things to steal are plastic models of innards and bottles of sugar water. So can't we just leave the rooms unlocked?

-Another strange thing. Apparently the "start" times of community college classes are not only flexible, but pretty much meaningless. I take a two hour Biology class, and people will show up literally an hour and a half late. There's never any sense of urgency. These people don't look the way I used to look when I would get late to class, (think-backward sweat pants, rats nest hair and no bra). They walk in like they have all the time in the world. Maybe they stopped for a leisurely breakfast or took a nice walk to enjoy the spring morning. And since they were already out, they thought, "hey, my class started an hour ago, maybe I should head over there." And so they take their sweet time and show up and loudly open the door and loudly put their stuff down and loudly open up their notebooks and click their little clicky pens. And that's great for them, that they are so footloose and fancy free. But because I am a notorious rule follower and have to prevent myself from hurling produce and obscenities at people who cut lines in grocery stores, I squirm in my seat and try not to shoot dirty looks. I keep waiting for a professor to say something, anything. But they don't even blink. It's actually incredibly depressing, because the only explanation I can think is that there's a certain point where as a community college professor you accept defeat. My professors are clearly past this point. 

-There is a secret, hidden, but vibrant world that exists somewhere, the world I imagine to be very much like an episode of Community. I do not witness this world. The only reason I think it may exist is that there are little signs and clues I run into. For example, outside of the elevator this week there has been a sign for a J. Sarge Medieval/Renaissance Fair. Now this is what I'm talking about! These are the shenanigans I crave. But who knows where this mystical event takes place (fine, I realize it probably says it on the poster, but there's no fun in that). And more importantly who goes to such a thing? It's like the newsletter taped to the inside of the bathroom stalls. This month there is an advertised three on three basketball tournament. There's also a showing of the Social Network with a discussion to follow (a discussion!) I want to know who these people are, who see signs like those, or the Medieval Fair sign, and think, YEAH, that's my jam. I'm going to take time out of my life, and go to an event that is advertised on the inside of a toilet stall. 

I legitimately want to go to one of these events, if only because I'm certain that the colorful and lovable characters from my imagination would be there. But I'm too scared that I will walk into a room full of toothless yokels and twitchy, unwashed weirdos, there for the free food, and all of my hopes and dreams will come crashing down. 

-Lastly, I think whoever controls the school-wide thermostat is a sadist. You would think there wouldn't be a school-wide thermostat, just individual room or floor ones, but NO. This is not the case. I know this is not the case, because a few weeks ago, when it was in the 20s outside, and the AC in our BIO class was on full blast, our professor told us with a sigh of resignation there was nothing she could do. It was so sad in a way, like maybe once, years ago, she may have thought she could really shake things up in a place like J. Sarge, change things, things like the thermostat. She would have been young and bright and full of optimism. And then day after day, she walked into her classroom and found it intolerably hot or hypothermia inducing cold. She tried to complain, to ask someone to fix it, but time and time again she got the same answer from everyone she asked-it was out of their hands. No one in the entire building could answer how to fix the thermostat. They just shrugged and suggested she ask someone else. And my poor professor tried to fight it, but eventually it wore her down. If it was cold outside, the AC would be on. If it was a warm day, the heat would be cranked up. It made no sense. It was awful, but no one could answer how to fix it. And so she eventually gave up, and shivered or sweated her way through each class, dreaming of better days.

Or something like that. All I know is somewhere, there is someone who can control this. And that person gleefully cackles as he or she adjusts the thermostat to the opposite of what reason or logic would dictate it be set at. That person is evil.

1 comment:

Emma said...

This is a great post. I loved the topic and your writing was funny and observant! You should write more posts about your "adventures" in community college (well, I think it's interesting because I work in higher education). I can tell you that the chem labs at VCU are not nearly as safe! haha Anyway, as a fellow Richmond twenty-something, I really enjoy following your blog!

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