Babying Adults

On this picture, you can see the building where my office is located. At this moment, it doesn’t look nearly as pretty as it does on the photo because we are undergoing major construction but you get the general idea.

You can see that there are balconies on the second and the third floor. Some professors (usually the ones who have been employed by the university the longest and have tenure) have a window and a door that leads to the balconies in their office.

The tenure-track faculty have windowless offices, which I think is fair because, like everything in life, a window has to be deserved.

The funny thing, though, is that the university refuses to give professors and even administrators the keys to the balcony doors located in their own offices. You have a balcony but you can’t use it. You can’t open the door and let some fresh air in, can’t go outside and walk on the balcony, or sit in the sun between classes. What the purpose of the balcony doors that nobody can access is remains a mystery.

Understandably, colleagues with balconied offices are upset. One has even threatened to pick the lock and gain access to the balcony that way. (This is precisely what I would have done in this situation.)

The university explained that the reason why professors and administrators are being denied keys to their balcony doors is that the school is watching out for their safety. I don’t know about you, but I find this explanation to be very offensive. Our tenured professors are highly educated, intellectual, reasonable people. They have traveled the world and manage to handle themselves well both at home and abroad. They get up in the morning, dress themselves, and go to work. They even remember to brush their teeth and wash their hair at regular intervals without anybody watching over them. I’m quite certain they can be trusted to walk out onto a balcony safely.

Seriously, what’s with the insulting babying of adults?

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The Solution to the Previous Post

And Diego wins the contest announced in the previous post! The very unusual thing I saw on campus yesterday was, indeed, a taxi:

Honestly, I’d have been less surprised if I’d seen an elephant on campus. Oh, how great life is in places where cabs are a normal part of daily existence! Freedom from a car is one of the first and foremost markers of civilization. In our area, at least, we have a very good public transportation system. There are places, though, where one is practically crippled without owning a money-guzzling can at all times.

A Very Unexpected Thing I Saw

I get a feeling people really enjoy my little riddles, so I’ll post another one.

Yesterday, I left the building where my office is located and, as usual, headed to the bus stop. There, I saw something really unexpected. Something that you never ever see around this small town and the neighboring tiny towns. This something is a symbol of civilization, freedom and efficiency for me. It always allowed me, as an autistic, to be an equal and productive member of society until I moved here and became deprived of this wonderful advance of human civilization. The moment I saw it, I started snapping photos of it like crazy. Maybe I’ll put one up on the wall of my office to remind me that somewhere, in big cities, civilization still exists.

Can anybody guess what it was that I saw?

And then later I’ll post a photo.

Are People Kinder in Small Towns or in Big Cities?

It’s all a myth that people in small towns and little villages are more sociable and kind to each other than the residents of supposedly alienating big towns. Folks who have never left their tiny little burgh are less worldly, less educated, less kind, and less open to their fellow human beings.

Just to give you a couple of examples.

Recently, my parents were visiting my aunt in a small village in Nova Scotia. We are all great walkers in the family, so they set out on one of their ten-mile-long walks. Suddenly, a very fierce rain started pouring. This was completely unexpected, so these three people in their 50ies began to walk back in the rain along the highway. They were sopping wet and shivering. As they walked, several cars passed by. Since the area is so sparsely populated, all of the owners of passing cars were people who knew my aunt very well. It didn’t, however, even occur to them to stop and offer a lift to their middle-aged neighbor and her relatives. My aunt waved at the passing cars until her arm hurt, but nobody paid any attention.

This story reminded me of the day when I got stranded in Detroit during a snowstorm. I was travelling by a Greyhound bus, and when the storm started, all the bus passengers were simply dumped at the bus station for over 30 hours. Eventually, I got so starved and bored at the bus station that I ventured into the city. It is a very strange feeling to walk around downtown Detroit when it is completely empty and there is no traffic. It was so quiet, I could actually hear the snow fall.

Walking in the knee-deep snow was hard. I immediately got lost, and my clothes got wet. And then a car driven by a young woman stopped next to me. “Get in,” she said. “I’ll take you where you need to go.” This woman was one of the people who set out to drive on the icy roads of Detroit to rescue stranded pedestrians and take them where they wanted to be. This kind woman took me to an open convenience store where I got hot coffee and hot food. On my way back, I was also rescued by a nice snow-shoveller who called a truck to come and pick me up.

You’d think that one’s better off getting stranded in an area where everybody knows each other than in downtown Detroit. However, people who don’t get a chance to socialize much with other human beings lose their social skills completely. In big cities, you meet many people as a matter of course when you go about your day. In small towns, the streets are always deserted, the buses are empty, and people just sit at home watching the TV or, at best, hang out at the mall in areas where there is one.

I always know which of my students are from Chicago or St.Louis and which ones are from neighboring towns. The former are polite, sociable, and fun to be around. The latter always hunch their shoulders, stare at the ground, pretend you don’t exist, and never greet you in the hallways.

Alabama Brings Civilization Our Way

We were all worried that after Borders went out of business, we wouldn’t have a bookstore in town. However, as I just discovered, a company from Alabama bought the space where the Borders bookstore used to be and we will now have a bookstore once again!

A Birmingham, Ala.-based book store is buying up the Borders bookstore in Edwardsville.

According to the St. Louis Business Journal, book retailer Books-A-Million has received approval from a federal bankruptcy judge to take over the leases of the metro-east book store at 6601 Edwardsville Crossing Drive in Edwardsville and 13 others from the bankrupt chain. The business journal reported that Books-A-Million will pay $934,259 for the properties.

They only chose 14 of the many Borders locales around the country, and ours is one of them. This makes sense since we are a university town with many good readers inhabiting it.

I can’t wait to visit our new local bookstore.

What’s With the Drilling?

I’m trying not to read the Republican obsession with drilling everything in sight too psychoanalytically but it isn’t easy. Take the most recent announcement from Bachmann, for example:

Though it received an intense amount of scrutiny and was branded as an “incredible faux pas,” Michele Bachmann’s remark that she wouldn’t be opposed to drilling for oil in the Everglades isn’t going away. In fact, the GOP presidential candidate is going even further with her claims, arguing that only “radical environmentalists” would oppose drilling in the Everglades .

If a person is so dead-set on drilling where there isn’t even any oil to be found, then there has to be some problem there. I remember crowds of Republicans wriggling in ecstasy during the “Drill, baby, drill!” chants of the 2008 elections. That was kind of freaky. Now we seem to be getting yet another dose of that same spiel.