Recently, they closed the bookstore at my school and for good reason. Anecdotally, I can tell you that in the two years I attended most recently, I did not buy a single thing in this store. Not a notebook, or a textbook, or a school t-shirt (there’s a better selection in the main Columbia store and I did buy a hoodie there my first semester – the computer lab is hella cold!). Even the used books turned out to be more expensive than new ones on Amazon and I ended up using my computer to take notes (you may remember earlier posts where I spoke about notebooks gleaned for me by our wonderful assistant at The Record Label – those went to my niece in college. Oh, and my daybook… I soon switched to Google calendar). But apparently, I am not the only one who discovered these things and even more so, that you could sell books online and get more than you would selling them back to B&N, who ran the store. So it closed at the end of my last semester.
The funny thing is, several other things that were touchstones for me when I attended the first time (you may or may not remember that I dropped out to take an internship at my first label) were all removed and changed just as I’m leaving now. And I say leaving now, even though I already graduated, because I agreed to stay on at my part-time job there through June. Or until I slit my wrists from the horror of this job, whichever comes first. But anyway! Beyond the bookstore, where I did actually buy textbooks and notebooks the first time around, there is the so-called Commuter Lounge. I really don’t know why it was called this. As professional grad schools do, this one has many commuters but I never understood why they needed a special place beyond, say, the library or the cafeteria or the regular lounge. And there was nothing unique about it, it’s just a large nook off a hallway, with candy and soda machines and an ugly black pleather sofa which snaked around the space. When I was a commuter the first time (a real one! I lived with my parents for the first semester and drove in every day from the suburbs – the only time in my life I drove on a daily basis), I spent most of my time in the regular lounge which had actual windows and better sofas. But I did hang occasionally in the commuter lounge as it was a good place to stop when you had a few minutes between classes and I remembered it very well all through the in-between years. And this space remained for fifteen+ years, just being remodeled last month! Now it has warm tables and chairs and there seem to be more actual people sitting in it.
Then there is the thing I recall best from my first go-round, the row of telephone booths that lined the hallway leading up to the cafeteria. It was here that I made my desperate weekly call to the A&R guy at the label for which I wanted to work to ask him yet again if there were any internship openings. One day after several months there was, and the rest is history. I was kind of shocked to arrive in 2009 and see that they were still there. Really? Phone booths? They finally tore them out early this year in a redesign of the hallway. I think I would have been saddest to find those gone.
As I’ve said before, the hard part of coming back to some place that meant something to you, either positive or negative, is seeing the changes that other people shrug about because they were there and it happened naturally and gradually. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have hit the jackpot and seen all these things happen so that I can digest them. If I had started school in Fall 2011 and found the bookstore gone and the commuter lounge redone and the telephone booths vanished, I would have understood but I would have felt the loss of a connection with the school I once attended as a confused college grad.
Last week, at the part-time job I will be ecstatic to leave, I was telling the woman with whom I share an office, a young doctoral student, about my new job. I mentioned how they would be counting in some of my years in the music business as teaching experience and how grateful I was that I would not be considered entry level. I mentioned the actual number of years I had worked and she looked stunned. She said, “but how could you have worked so many years???” I said, “what do you mean?” She stammered, “but I thought you were just a few years older than I am!” Ladies and gents, I am at least 11-12 years older than her. Just a few years ago, my real age would have bothered me. I worried, working in a youth culture, that I would be out of touch and not hip. Now I realize that my true age is what gives me confidence going into my new job. I have some sort of experience and knowledge about life that she, who actually teaches a couple of community college classes, doesn’t possess. And you can’t learn it in school. It’s why grad school was so awful the first time and so great now. The school, despite the cosmetic, hasn’t changed. I have changed. And I’m really glad to have lived and learned all these years.
This was my favorite thing about the bookstore. You could buy actual children there. I never asked, I assumed they kept them in the back.
Two housekeeping notes:
1. There was a problem with my server last week and although I thought it had been solved, a couple of comments (including mine) were deleted, but I have added them back. Sorry if things looked odd for a couple of days there.
2. I lied, I think this is the last post tagged as Student Life.
I have attended ten or twelve U2 concerts in my life but the last one was on the Popmart tour. I hope this is still the play out music.
U2 – 40