You are a sign

I work at a great Community College. It has a long rich history of educating students, first as an extension of high school offering 13th and 14th grades, then as a School Board support college and ultimately as a Community College operating within a Community and Technical College system. Our first campus was a shared space with a high school, then buildings were added for the college, and as we expanded, additional campuses were added. At one time we had four or five extended locations throughout Bossier City. It was a little like a sprawling university campus, in that you had to know where the buildings were located, and how to plan your class schedule according to location. And ultimately we grew beyond all boundaries so a new planned campus was built.

It is beautiful. Magnificent. Planned. All the buildings match one another and are all located within the same quadrangle. They are distinguished by a letter designation, so there is an A, and B, and C, and so on. And for all its organizational laid out effectiveness, it does lack that certain “lost” quality that comes with a big, sprawling campus. Do not misunderstand, it is big, and sprawling, but laid out nicely in a grid. So it would seem that if you had the building letter, say E, and the room number, say 326, you should be able to find the classrooms, laboratory or office. Not so fast there.

Because once you enter the building there are obstacles in your way. First, each building’s ground floor is adorned with an ornamental staircase that goes to the second floor. Most building have three floors. Leaving students to often wonder where rooms beginning with the numerical value of 3 are located. Second, the room numbers are randomly assigned, not sequential, not following a pattern of evens on one side and odds on another, completely random. So while you might be looking for E326, just because you have found E325 and 327, does not mean that 326 is anywhere close to them. Third, some room numbers are actually within other rooms, so while you may want E129, you have to discern through divine intervention or Tarot cards, that 129 is actually within 140. Finally, either for grins or sheer madness, the toilets are not uniform throughout a building. So on some floors the ladies appears on the right side and the men’s on the left, and on the next floor it is reversed.

To that end at the beginning of each semester, you become a sign. Faculty stand in the hallways and provide directions to lost students. You get to meet a lot of students that way. You get to share a lot of useful information, such as there are staircases at either end of the hallway. You get to hear some frustration about how difficult it is to get around, and I just want to laugh, because you can park your car (sometimes) and not have to move it to other campuses to get to all your classes.

It is hospitality. A thin place of meeting people and helping them to their destination or letting them know they have arrived safely. It seems an odd thing to have to do at a College, and on those days I often feel as if I am standing in a church foyer helping visitors to a classroom, nursery or sanctuary.

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