Seven thousand students may sound like a lot, but good luck trying to stay anonymous on campus. The trouble is not so much the small size of the school as it is the unforgiving regularity of each student’s schedule. I don’t personally know everyone I see, but I feel like I see the same faces in the same places every day. Monday there is the “I know that you know that I know you” set of stares outside HumBio lecture; Tuesday and Thursday without fail I bump into a guy from my freshman dorm biking home from section. We have the same five-minute bike-chat each time. I get freaked out by routine. It makes me feel like I’m running in circles.
Likely because I am running in circles, but not the redundant kind I dread. Each identical five-minute bike-chat changes slightly by referencing a history of Tuesday/Thursday encounters. Each “I know that you know that I know you” stare becomes progressively less menacing and more amused. The set of routines stays the same, but our relationship to each ritual changes with every repetition. These tiny changes transform mundane drudgery into something sacred, sweet and sometimes spontaneous.
At Coupa I overheard a perplexed student venture, “I feel like I’ve seen you in lecture.” The girl he was addressing didn’t miss a beat, “Yeah, we talk almost every day.” At Tresidder I saw an elderly couple about to sit down at a table when the man interjected, “No, we have to sit at our table.” The table they sat at as 20-year-olds, I assume. The routine is exhausting. The routine is boring. But with each iteration the routine gains a layer of nuance, edging towards tradition. Maybe 40 years from now those two I heard at Coupa will be stubbornly doddering to their table.
Amused? Confused? Outraged? Share your thoughts with Renée at firstname.lastname@example.org.