Yesterday I went to a human resources thing at Bowdoin. I sat in a meeting and filled out some paperwork, and was directed to and from various buildings to get keys and a parking sticker. Helpful people pointed at buildings on a campus map and gestured their arms out to the street to direct me. I squinted at brick buildings looking for the names of halls: Rhodes, McLellan, Morrell. The day was sticky and hot and I could feel sweat on my back. I kept having to ask for people to repeat things, because they were speaking in University code: "you'll need to go to communications for that," or "Just ask residential life about that part, see if the upload has been done," rattling off buildings or extensions as though they were a part of the context of everyone's life. I kept having to stop and ask what felt like dumb questions: is that a department? If I'm not calling from a university phone, what do I dial? Are those the same people who have the keys? Will I need the ID before I get the email address?
The trees are tall and green on campus and there was a slight breeze in the otherwise humid day. I puzzled my way through my errands, back and forth, stopping to peer at the map and looking around with wide eyes, and I felt just like an undergraduate again: sweat on my back, notebook in hand, and a mysterious and promising campus all around me.