Thursday, September 01, 2005

What's up dude?

Fire alarm evacuations are a distinctive and unwelcome facet of residence hall living on American Univeristy’s South side. There was one last night, shortly after 12:00 AM. During my first semester in residence, Spring 2002, they occurred with dreary regularity. One is awakened from sleep at two or three AM by the clanging bells, stumbles into something and exits the building along with about 1800 other residents. If the evacuation is long – some last an hour or more – a haze of fatigue dims the next morning’s classes or work.

Last fall, adapting a suggestion of Collegiate Way editor Bob O’Hara, I began handing out candy during evacuations. Now, my large yellow candy bowl, illuminated by a flashing red light has become a familiar sight, though new to freshperson residents for whom evacuations are still a novel experience.

Dormgrandpop learned at this year’s resident assistant orientation that my first distributions were viewed suspiciously by some. Despite my best efforts, many residents complete and entire year – or more – on the south side without realizing that there is a faculty member in residence. If you didn’t know this, the appearance of a relatively mature gentleman, in nondestript clothing, walking among students at 2:30 in the morning handing out candy might, indeed be legitimate grounds for suspicion.

But over time the sharing of this common experience can be bonding. There are few times when I have the opportunity to meet more students, one-on-one than when I am handing out Reese Cups or Nestle Crunch Bars during an hour-long evacuation. Somehow, the barriers that impede communication between faculty and student don’t seem so great when we are both clad in similarly random attire, trying to sustain some level of humanity, at 2:30 in the morning.

This morning, I received a signal that my every present goal of bonding with this year’s cohort of residents is making headway. As I was walking through the Anderson lobby a young man, walking back after breakfast approached me. He slowed. As he looked at me, there was an obvious flash of recognition. He smiled and said:

“What’s up dude.”


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