Last Thursday I was approaching my office door with keys in hand, briefcase in tow, and quite a few care packages tucked under my arm. As I tried balancing my latte on my French-style door handle, I was rewarded for this very bad decision by my drink plummeting to the freshly waxed linoleum and spreading in a four-foot oblong pattern across the heavy traffic area of our hall.
Returning from my second restroom trip with twenty yards of paper towels flowing behind me, I was met with this image…
A young male student with strawberry-blonde curly hair held somewhat in place by a hippie-style, braided headband was on his hands and knees. His gold-rimmed, 70s style glasses were slightly odd-angled on his still-pubescent face and he was working diligently, cleaning up my mess.
As I approached he greeted me in a very “duuuude” voice, “These paper towels aren’t very ab-sor-bent.”
We mopped together in silence for a minute, he left and then returned again with a huge wad of toilet paper.
“THIS stuff was made for ab-sor-bency, riiiight?” He held out the wad of toilet paper as though he had just bagged a trophy.
I grinned, agreed, and we had everything cleaned up in another minute.
With the last few finishing swipes of a wet rag to clean up any sticky residue, I looked up and said, “Bless you for all your help (I almost ended that statement with “,dude”) – I really appreciate that.”
He stood up, shifted his huge backpack and said, “Yur wel-come…have a guh-rate week.” After adjusting his glasses and flashing a lopsided smile, he walked down the now dry hallway.
I found myself parroting his voice in my head as I watched him leave: “That dude is paying it for-ward.”
As I approached the “No Loitering” a-frame sign I knew the message was a nice way of saying, “Stay out – we’re working.” My curiosity got the best of me, however, and I walked closer to the corner gate of the practice field. I could hear the OSU football team yelling drills and the sounds of helmets and pads crashing together as tackles took place over and over. The burning sun overhead made the practice atmosphere feel genuinely intimidating. A physically fit man with sunglasses and white hair decked out in new orange and black coach clothes looked my way as I got closer.
“Hey – can I take a quick photo of the team practicing?” I smiled.
“It’s closed. So…no.” He responded.
“How about of you? You look interesting!” I retorted.
“I can assure you that I am NOT interesting,” he chuckled. I waved and walked on….straight to the athletic ticket office. For the first time in about eight years I picked up a packet of student tickets for my husband and I. We were willing to trade our chair-backed seats in the alumni section for the reduced cost of these babies. With three of our family members in college, you bet your patooty we were. Besides, sitting in the student section always helps you remember mankind is a primal being – there is raw energy like no other around those crazy, crazy fans.
I checked the envelope to make sure his “student dependent/spouse” card was in the packet, talked to a few others picking up their tickets and walked back to the car.
On my returning stroll, I noticed that practice was continuing without a guarded gate and a photo would have been easy pickings…but I decided not to push things today. After all, the atmosphere across campus was just way too happy. I didn’t need to spoil the mood with being chased off the premises.
The volunteers manning information and water booths for the students were happy. The students trying to find their way around campus were also happy. The faculty walking up and down the halls in the College of Human Environmental Sciences were happy. There were new posters on the walls of student athletes in our college, students who had earned honors or done research…a smile on all their faces.
As I walked up the stairs to my office and sat down, I noticed I was in an incredibly good mood. My season football and basketball tickets were now in my purse, my syllabi were written and I had just seen my first advisee of the semester.
I have a sneaking suspicion I know why professors wait so long to retire…something about the university setting is like a fountain of youth. A new school year, a new promise of learning, a new hope of beating the living daylights out of our competition in the sports arenas.
It’s going to be a good year.
Showcasing Red Dirt culture ~ authored and managed by contributors with connections to the great state of Oklahoma.