Posted By Caulimovirus on March 16, 2009
New Brunswick > New Braunfels
Note: I wrote this and the remaining installments during the flight back. They will appear automatically over the next few days.
.: When it became clear that the campus by the station was not the campus where I would interview, I slipped on my gloves, zipped up my jacket, and headed towards the other end of the city. I thought about hopping on one of the buses, but I was low on cash and high on time. Only later did I learn that most of the buses in the city were a complimentary service provided by the university, free to all.
.: The half hour walk afforded me a nice, albeit linear, view of the city. A stroll down George St. exposed me to more culture than Waco has in five years of living there. New Brunswick’s diversity was a welcome change from Waco’s two-pronged choice of rich white college kids or impoverished locals.
.: I made a note of places to visit on the way back from campus, but I misplaced it and, consequently, have no stories to tell of places never visited. There was much to see on campus, however. One of my first sights was the front page of the student newspaper The Daily Targum, which announced the state’s $15.5 million budget cut from university funding. A few pages in I saw a captioned photo that read, “Senior Corbin Laetlein plays a dildo ring toss game Tuesday at Latex Luau Spring Break: Sun, Sand, and STDs, sponsored by Rutgers University Programming Association.”
.: I found Martin Hall, the building in which my first interview was to take place, with considerable ease. Satisfied with my ability to confirm the accuracy of campus maps, I trekked across the park towards the next building on my schedule. A small pond filled with geese lay at the center of the park’s gentle decline, and a red-pebbled trail decked with sparse benches outlined the park’s perimeter. I cut through the grass and noticed that students walking to class universally avoided this obvious shortcut. I wondered why they would prefer the inefficient, circuitous route demanded by the trail when they could easily shave a cool thirty seconds off their travels, and I saw my answer when I looked down: geese shit, everywhere. Not the two-dimensional paint jobs left by pigeons and other city birds, either; I mean stuff they would rightly fine you for if it were left by your pet.
.: After scraping clumps of former geese off my shoes, I wandered in to Foran Hall. To first approximation this was the BSB of their campus: grand, magnificent, and full of labs. The walls and stairs were worn, and decorations were sporadic to nonexistent — but these were all scientists here, why should they care?
.: My next stop was the Cook Campus Center, which I guess would be their analog to the Baylor Student Union Building. One neat feature in the café was the wall of napkins, whereby you simply write down an idea, request, compliment, or complaint on a napkin and pin it to the wall. The staff will respond in kind on a napkin and pin it to yours. An informal, transparent, and efficient way to run an operation if I may say so.
.: Having mastered the train schedules, gauged the amount of time required to travel from hotel to campus, located the relevant buildings, and with nothing left to do, I left. I never learned how to accost strangers or initiate conversations with any degree of comfort, so to pass the time in the train station I listened to others. A fifty year old woman opined without restraint to a cheerful Vietnam veteran on topics as diverse as the economy and how best to raise one’s kids (with a special focus on doing so in today’s economy).
“I told them, ‘You wanna go to college, you put yourself through.'” She spoke in a way that suggested her philosophy, if rigorously adhered to by all, would surely solve everybody’s problems. She apparently did learn how to initiate conversations and even maintain them in the face of intense disinterest shown by her chosen word receptacle. When her discussion with the veteran ended, she immediately engaged the stranger in the seat behind her. As the ride progressed, I noticed the unlucky passenger would slowly raise her book higher and higher. Topics among which Talk Box held strong opinions (if, indeed, it was able to hold opinions of any other intensity) were: Bernie Madoff, day traders, mortgage holders, her kids, and what They (i.e., everybody else) should do.
.: Another girl behind me held what I am forced by my limited vocabulary to label a conversation with her friend on the phone. After exchanging information in the barest, most mechanical of sentences, the rest of her words consisted exclusively of “Yeah, that’s funny” followed by a hideous burst of “həh”s. I used the schwa because that’s exactly what her flat laughter sounded like. There were always seven in a row: “Həh həh həh həh həh həh həh.”
.: I reached my room at the hotel an hour later. Exhausted and enshrouded in Marriott sheets, I took an unexpected nap for five hours. While pleasant for its duration, I woke up groggier and more anxious than before. I was also beginning to feel hungry, a consequence of overlooking the many quality restaurants in New Brunswick.
.: All the food courts in the airport were behind security checkpoints. However, had I so wished, I could have simply [redacted], but I didn’t want to. I opted instead for a salad at the hotel bar, where I overheard a desperate drunk trying his lamest to score his server’s number. Among his advertised qualities were “I just quit smoking” and “I have nothing to do.”
.: Groggy, nervous, sleepless but exhausted, breath reeking of Caesar dressing and no toothpaste in my bag (d’oh), I did my best to go to sleep and prepare for the second biggest event of my trip.