Corona Art

I was surprised to see art on the walls of the small exhibit space in the art building! Turns out, it’s last year’s junior art students’ show – work they couldn’t exhibit last spring because the world melted down. Beyond its excellent name, the show includes lots of great drawings, among other wonderful stuff. If this is any indication of this cohort’s skill, their senior show in the spring should be great!

Pandemic! in the Men’s Room

The old building where I’ve worked my whole time at Carleton is being renovated this year, so we’ve relocated to slightly less old building that boasts all of two restrooms. I dunno about the women’s, but the men’s has two stalls – done up in heavy, dark wood like a lavatory at Hogwarts – which under the new pandemic rules, has the capacity for just one, uh, user at a time. Barging in and knocking didn’t work very well to determine occupancy, so a colleague installed a four-phase system for using the restroom.

Phase I: Arrive and flip the occupancy sign to red:

Phase 2: Do your business and as you leave, let Uncle Sam remind you to flip the sign over:

Phase 3: Immediately forget to flip the sign over, but be reminded by the other sign, pinned to the bulletin board straight across the corridor:

Phase 4: Flip the sign back to green and walk away, wondering if touching the sign negated the 20 seconds of hand washing:

Self-Surveillance

Every day before going to work, I’m supposed to complete a short form to document that I don’t have any COVID symptoms. Sometimes I swing a little late, but so far I’m batting 1.000. It’s bizarre how satisfying I find that streak of “Green – Negative” descriptions. Proof of my virtue, or luck, or privilege, or something.

Online Sidewalk Yoga

Tuesday, I looked out my office window around 10 and saw a young woman, dressed in athletic clothes, lying perfectly still on the sidewalk below. I started, thinking something was wrong. But she had a laptop next to her, and after a second, she sat up and assumed a yoga pose. Ah, okay, she’s doing yoga. Outside. On concrete. In the open spot between one academic building and another. Okay.

Today, I happened to get a cup of coffee at about ten, and as I walked back to my office, I nearly stepped on her, again lying perfectly still on the sidewalk. This time, though, I could hear a yoga instructor giving directions through laptop. Ah, okay, she’s in a yoga class. A physical education yoga class. Online. The kid is doing her required PE class via Zoom. Outside. On concrete. In the open spot between one academic building and another. Impressive. Sad. Impressively, sadly normal.

Physical Distancing on Campus

With the return of students to campus last week and the start of classes today (finally!), signs about masks, about hand washing, about COVID symptoms, and about physical distancing* have flowered everywhere: walls, doors, windows, bathroom stalls, floors, pillars… I guess I haven’t seen any on trees or ceilings, but maybe those will show up tomorrow.

And anywhere two people can queue up, the floor is marked with traffic-flow arrows, spacing dots or x’s, reminders about the magical six feet (“2M,” if you’re metric)…

Fi-Mask-co

I have, I think, eleven masks. I have one stashed in each car, two hanging from a hook in my office, one or two on the hat rack at home, and the rest… Uh… Most of them are in my backpack, I think, but maybe a couple are stuffed in handlebar bags on my bikes.

Today, I headed off to the coffeeshop before work without one around my neck. “No problem,” I thought as I rode along, “I’ll dig one out of my backpack before I go inside.” Nope. Nothing there. I zipped my jacket up as high as I could, just under my nose, and went in. “Do you have any spare masks?” I asked. Luckily, they did, and the barista slid one over the counter to me. Crisis averted. When I got to work, I found the two on the hook, one on the cabinet where I leave my bike helmet, and one on my desk. They both went into my backpack for Monday.

Who was that masked student?

I had my individual meetings with my four first-year advisees today – nice young men and women,* all suburbanites, all student-athletes, all excited about college. None of them took me up on my offer to have our meetings by video call, and each of them commented in one way or another about being “Zoomed out” after a disrupted senior year of high school, a summer spent looking at a screen, and now orientation that includes a lot of activities on Zoom.

So I enjoyed talking face to face with them, or mask to mask, eight feet apart. I found it taxing to listen to someone that far away whose mouth is hidden by the masks they all dutifully wore. Nonetheless we had some great conversations that covered a lot of ground I’d expected and needed to cover (general education requirements, Carleton as an institution, Northfield as a place) as well some topics that gave me a better sense of them as people – G, who worries about finding enough time to pursue all of his interests; I, who wants to know the best restaurants in town; B, who has already planned out her major; and S, who wants to meet more people already!

All in all, the meetings were refreshing reminders of what Carleton is all about and that the kids are going to do pretty well despite the world we’ve forced them to live in.

But sill: it’s insane to me that everyone – today, literally every person on campus! – is wearing a mask. Disposable ones, Carleton-branded ones, fancy ones, plain ones, pattered ones, solid-colored ones. 2020: the year we couldn’t see anyone’s mouth, and learned to recognize each other by eyebrows and noses.

* After 14 years at Carleton, I feel like I can almost start calling them “kids,” but I remember feeling So Grown Up at 18…

Pandemic Restrooms

Every day, more signs, posters, flyers, reminders about pandemic health and safety appear around campus. At this rate, the restrooms in our office building will be wallpapered in signage by Halloween. Today’s addition to the door into the two-stall men’s room:

The commodes are new-ish, and there’s a touchless paper towel dispenser, but pretty much everything else appears to be original to the building. This wooden stalls create a look and feel that’s very Hogwarts – but the building went up in 1915, just before the Spanish flu pandemic. I wonder if the college put up posters to exhort masking and washing hands.

Covid Move-In Day

Today was arrival day for first-year students at Carleton – the Class of 2024! I felt a touch of melancholy all day at the atmosphere: dreary weather, parents and freshmen moving into the dorms on strict shifts, everyone wearing masks and maintaining distance, small quiet groups instead of the big boisterous crowds… It’s just not right! But it’s also reality. More happily, I got in touch with my four FY advisees today. We’ll meet tomorrow morning at 10, which is going to be a nice moment.

Falldemic

Today, the weather turned dramatically, shaving off 30º F and turning from windy sun to overcast rain. Not only did this mean that I had to scotch plans for a ride, but also that fall has started, at least in the practical sense that I needed an extra layer when I went outside to today.

And if fall has started, then the pandemic has now touched – harmed! – all four seasons. We joked in April about how difficult lockdown would be during the winter, and thanks to Trump’s ineptitude, we might now get a chance to see. At the least, we’re going to have to read the dismal news on the pandemic while enduring the dismal autumnal drizzle. And today, students started coming back to Carleton, which means that those poor first-years are always going to remember literal and figurative clouds hanging over their first days of college.