Every May (or every other May, depending), I go back to the dorms.
No, wait: "Go back" is not quite accurate, because I never lived in the dorms as an undergraduate. But here, at Kalamazoo, it's sort of a ritual.
For those of you who aren't medievalists, the International Congress on Medieval Studies (sounds fancy, no?) is held every May in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on the campus of Western Michigan University. The school year gets out about a week or two before the congress, and then the organizers make a mad scramble to prepare everything, because one of the ways one can save money is by staying in the dorms.
Yup: I am writing this post under a buzzing florescent light, surrounded by whitewashed cinderblocks in a 10-by-10 room with two twin beds, two desks, a dresser, and one bathroom shared by adjoining rooms. So far, I have not been walked in on while using the facilities, but I figure it's only a matter of time.
I used to stay in the dorms as a grad student to save money: $35 a night, or less if you actually double up in the rooms (I don't). Since my earliest Kalamazoo presentation, my income has increased to the point where I could afford one of the off-campus hotels, but I choose to stay in the dorms anyway. Less money on hotels means more money for better food. Also, it's nice to be able to come back to the room between panels, change clothes, lie down for a bit, brush my teeth, whatever. I've learned to request a room in the hall that is perhaps furthest away from the action (not by much) but closest to the good coffee (though this time I'm at a room right above an area where people appear to be gathering to have a conversation just below my very window -- at this very moment, in fact. I must learn to be more specific).
In other words, I'm cool with dorm life for a weekend. And with several hundred of us here, it feels a little like camp. Though the accommodations do make me wonder about how undergrads staying in the dorm negotiate their more private assignations -- these dorm beds seem like anything but inviting. I've even learned to think of the stiff towels that are provided as sort of drying and exfoliating all in one. But the blanket they provide... there is a certain sadness to those felt blankets, is there not? Thin, pilled, like dryer lint held together with ambient moisture and broken dreams.
But luckily I may be too exhausted to care. The conference is going well so far, and I have much to report already, but for now, I'm going to post this, sign off, and go to bed.
Just as soon as I walk downstairs and outside and tell those noisy kids to get off my lawn.