Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shuman Hall is haunted by the ghosts of my youth or "How many years did it take to get the smell out of your clothes"

"At the top of the stairs, take a right; go all the way to the end."


I had been in this office before, tho it was a very long time ago, four/five sitcoms at least.  (Maybe it's the fact that I grew up watching "Mary Tyler Moore"
, "Laverne and Shirley" and "the Jeffersons", but, I tend to think of the different times in my life as sitcoms - and, yes, I have a theme song for most of them).  This had been the office of the Academic Dean and I had been up here for good reasons, bad reasons and dumb reasons...  Dean Collard (I couldn't tell you his first name) had been a prof that I'd had in college for a "Modern Thought" class.  He didn't lecture, he simply had you read a chapter and discuss it with him.  It was very tricky.  Oddly enough, it was one of those classes that required "permission" and how someone like me ever got in is still a mystery (to the other people in the class).

Dean Collard is long gone, but something he said back then still haunts me.  "Your generation doesn't pick up pennies because they don't see value in them.  When we begin to think of insignificant things as valueless things it hurts us.  We begin to think of insignificant people as having no value and it only goes down from there."  I started picking up pennies - and my friends started picking up Purell.

But today, I was on my way to see another Prof I had had in college. (It's funny to think that at 43 I am older now than he was when I had him as a professor).  When I got to the office that I believed was his I had a very strange feeling that I was in the wrong place.  Tho I couldn't put my finger on it until later, realize now that I still associated him with the "smell."  

I was in college in the 80s, he was a young man in the 80s...  in the 80s the cologne was Polo.  ...and he wore Polo.  Now, I won't remark that he wore too much cologne because Polo is one of those scents that is not unlike the QEII.  If you were in a row boat and were hit by the QEII you couldn't complain that the liner had hit you harder than was necessary...  ...and so it was in college that I knew he was coming down the hallways long before I ever saw him and years afterward the smell of Polo would bring to mind this man who was, at the same time, my professor and my friend.

Upon arrival at his "new" office (Dean Collard's old office) I had the suspicion I was in the wrong place because I did not smell the cologne - so odd how the brain works.

He was there and seemed genuinely pleased that I had come to see him.  We decided to go for lunch, Mongolian BBQ.  

Our conversation over lunch was what you would expect of that between the head of a college and his unemployed blogging former student from years past...

"What are you doing these days?"

"I'm unemployed."

"Which explains why you're in such great shape."

(If you read my blog regularly, tho we've never met, you can see the expression on my face.)

"When did you go blind?" was not my response.

"Was I that fat in college?" was also not my response.

Instead I laughed and said,

"It's amazing what a VERY TIGHT stretchy t-shirt will do to your body under a very loose sweater."  (and it is!) 

I was amazed to find that it did not seem at all as tho 25 years had passed since last I had sat to talk with him.

I was amazed to find that, when he began to suggest possible job paths for me, he was spot in terms of what I know and what I can do...

I was amazed to find that he had changed so very little and that, while I think I have changed so very much, (perhaps) I have not.

On my way back to the car, I glanced at the ground and saw an old metal spoon in the mud along the path.  It was bent and twisted, tho not rusty.  I left it where it was because it was garbage...  ...but it was right at the foot of a gate that I had never noticed.


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