Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dorm Life, Kalamazoo Style

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.


clio's disciple said...

One time I was awakened in the middle of the night by some (presumably drunken) person belting out songs in Italian in the courtyard below my window. Points for style, demerits for timing. Hope you have better luck and a good time at the 'zoo!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Hi, CD! I actually just recommended your work to a grad student working on a similar (though not identical) topic... and another grad student in the audience said, "Oh! You know, I have a PDF of that I can send you when I get home!"

s for the noise, I have lately learned that I have a choice between staying unhappy and taking action, and that the latter usually works better: I went down, pointed to my window, noted the late hour, and asked if they could move a bit, and they were very nice about it. It's still going to be hellaciously noisy on Saturday night after the dance, but hey... It's Kalamazoo, Jake.

La Fletcher said...

Ahhhhh, sunny Kalamazoo! I miss getting to go back now that I've switched from being a medievalist to a librarian. I'm very fond of staying in the dorms, and have only once been walked in on by a fellow medievalist while I was showering. Last time I seemed to be stuck in a room right above the go-to gathering spot for everyone with leftover free wine hour bottles, which at least made for interesting eavesdropping...