Friday, July 11, 2008

Unwritten Rules at the U of M

Forget academics for just a moment. I'd like to discuss what I've really learned at the U.

First, the university will not spend money on things related to liberal arts or education. During my undergrad, I had the classrooms that were not air conditioned, falling apart and had a general smell that wasn't pleasant. When I started my graduate program, it was the same thing plus cockroaches (I didn't even know we had cockroaches in Minnesota). Once, I had class in one of the science buildings. It was freezing, and the seats were padded. The building was well maintained. Sometimes I wonder if Peik Hall is ever checked. It just always remains open and people use it. The university doesn't even realize it. It seems that way anyway.

Second, waiting to get to a crosswalk is for sissies, no matter how busy the road is. If there's a break in traffic, make a mad dash. This one is well practiced and is mainly recommended when crossing Washington and University Aves., or 4th St. Also, if you happen to be at a crosswalk, don't wait for the signal to turn if at all possible. I've noticed in other parts of the city and suburbs, these rules do not carry over. I walked before the signal turned not too long ago while I was downtown and people stared at me like I was insane.

Third, the squirrels, regardless of what you may have originally thought about the food chain, are in control. Once, I threw something in a garbage bin outside and a squirrel came out of it and nearly killed me. They're not afraid of anything. A lot of them look quite rabid, with only patches of hair, and some have no tails. I imagine this is due to the bike traffic. Seriously though, don't mess with the squirrels. They don't even look cute on campus. I think a horror movie should be made about them. Well, actually it would be more like a documentary since all the film crew would have to do is set up a camera near garbage cans and watch defenseless students run away screaming and crying. Don't ever get caught near a squirrel alone at the U; you'll never survive.

Finally, parking is a bitch. The choice is to pay $5,000,000/day to park in a ramp or at a meter, or to park nearly out of the city. I usually park about a mile away, two neighborhoods over. I don't mind the walk; I tell myself I need the exercise. Yesterday was a little problematic since it seemed to be race-to-your-car-before-the-massive-storm-starts day. If I could have, to save time, I would have jumped onto moving cars and leapt onto the sides of brick walls, climbing to the rooftops with my impressive upper body strength, flinging myself from building to building in Dinkytown to the roofs of homes in Marcy Holmes, until swinging from the branches of a tree back onto the ground. I'd have my own theme music too (I could be just like Kronk). But I was wearing a skirt, so this was not possible. Although my mom will tell you I had no trouble throwing myself over the backseat of their SUV in the very same skirt. I made it to my car just as it was starting to rain anyway. My superhero powers were not needed.


  1. Seriously! One time I was enjoying my bagged lunch out on Northrup Mall when--I'm not exaggerating--3 birds and 2 squirrels started diving and running towards my food. First, I tried to hide my cookies & pb&j sandwich, hoping for the out of sight = out of mind phenomenon to occur. But, the U of M squirrels are indeed scary. Eventually, I gave into my fears, left my food on the lawn and ran away. As my tummy rumbled, I watched the birds beck at my cookie bag and the squirrels chase each other since one of them stole my sandwich. Scariest moment of my undergrad.

  2. Life in Mnpls keeps getting worse and worse... I wonder where I could be by now if I had stayed there. But of course, I would have been among the privileged ones in the science building ;-)

    mmhh.. I am now wondering whether your squirrels might be the result of a wicked experiment. I imagine the headlines: UoM getting rid of english teachers with GMO squirrels... next on sick sad world. :D

  3. Hey Maggie - I'm trying this full on blog style this time... let's see if the tech gremlins have followed me here. While I love Kronk, and that movie is one of my all time favorites, as I was reading your entry, I just kept picturing you strolling through a nice, well-maintained, cozy campus like St. Olaf or Gustavus. You know the song... sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. It IS hard to come to a place everyday where you feel that you need to put up a fight just to get there (traffic, bus transfers, no parking with in a 3 mile radius for under $$$)and once you are there, the rabid squirrels are fighting you for turf. When you get into your class, the building feels unloved. Did you see the dead cockroach in the bathroom in Peik? That sucker was at least 1 1/2 inches long!! The campus of the U is so huge that it can feel not only impersonal but at times almost anti-you, until you find your niche - then it all becomes bearable. That is how I think many of my students feel about high school. For so many of them is is a battle just to get there, and once they are there, the place is run by rabid squirrels (security, hall monitors and rules that don't bend) while their rooms are not stocked with the supplies the students need. Schools can feel anti-student.

    I'll look for you in the tree tops and roof tops of the neighborhood each day from now on! Make sure you sing your theme music loudly so we can all enjoy it! -

  4. Ann, I'm so glad you're my blog partner.