The College of Escher

While trying to distract myself from my meaningless consumer-driven life, I decided to take a painting class with my co-worker Joyce at Ohlone, the community college near work. I’ve driven by this campus when I used to visit my dentist on a regular basis, but I’d never had the pleasure of actually traversing it.

So, with only the information I’ve gleaned from Joyce and the website the previous week, I head off for the first day of class, armed with pen and paper and nothing else. (Some days I’m just brilliant.) Do I know where the classroom is? Or the building? Heck, do I even know where to park? The answer to all these questions is a resounding NO! But do I let a little lack of knowledge stop me from my pursuit of distraction? Hell, no. Not me! I do, however, give myself an hour leeway to find my way around campus, knowing that I may get lost a few times.

Armed with the little bit of knowledge I do have: Building 4, I drive around the entire campus. Are any of the buildings labeled where someone from the road can see? Of course not! So, I drive to a random parking area and park. Since Ohlone doesn’t have an online ordering system, I have to buy a day pass to park and find out where to get a parking permit for the semester.

And this is where Escher comes in. Most people have seen the Escher drawing of the stairs that lead everywhere. Well, the Ohlone designer must have been an Escher fan, because this place has stairs EVERYWHERE! I went up two flights of stairs on the south side of the college, only to go down a half flight and up another half flight to get to the central spot where you can take three more flights up to the student activities center. (Mind you, I’ve already worked out once today.) Now, I’m only guessing that’s what the building is, because I can’t find a map anywere. (Most campuses I’ve been on have a map posted somewhere for the new students to huddle around in shared ignorance.) But there is a steady stream of people heading in that direction, so being a student lemming, I follow the rest of the lemmings off the cliff. Luckily, this time lemming behavior pays off.

Since it’s the first week of classes, there is an information booth set up in the lobby of the student activities building. So, after looking around for a sign that might signal the purchase of parking permits (which, of course, involved a flight of stairs), I ask at the booth and get directed to the bookstore. Great! Where’s the bookstore? Guess? Up this flight of stairs to a central flight of stairs, then through a fountained courtyard and up that flight of stairs, which will put me on the first level of Building 5 where the bookstore is located.

So, up I go. And I actually find the bookstore without much trouble and purchase my parking permit. I also notice that I don’t get cellular signal inside the bookstore even though I’m near the top of a hill. (I was going to offer to buy Joyce a permit as well, but couldn’t get signal while standing in line.) After the bookstore, I go looking for Building 4 and my classroom.

I find the building without much trouble, but since I don’t know which classroom it is, I’m hoping to see Joyce hanging around somewhere. I walk the base of the building, no Joyce, no classroom information posted. OK. 10 minutes to class.

Plan B. I try to call Joyce and get no answer.

Plan C. I go back down three flights of stairs to the information booth and ask for a class schedule. Room 4311. Great. 7 minutes to class. Up the stairs I go. I look around the building. No room 4311. I see 4211 and there’s a flight of stairs leading up to a door that has a keypad and card lock on it. I go back down stairs. I walk around the whole building again, looking for a doorway that has to lead to the interior of the building, but there isn’t an obvious one. On the other side of the building, after hiking up a steep incline, I see a stairway leading down. Is it the holy grail of stairways? I take it. Nope. I’m back where I started. Class time.

OK. Joyce is probably wondering where I am. I obviously need to tackle this thing more logically. The 4 is for building 4, the 311 means it should be on the third floor. Up the stairs I go again. I look at the door with the keypad and card lock. This time, I actually try the door and low and behold, it’s unlocked. I feel brilliant. (Not really. If I were brilliant, I would’ve tried the door the first time instead of assuming it was locked.) I go inside and right there, is room 4311. And after giving myself an hour lead, I’m only 5 minutes late. I’m just in time for the part about tardiness on the green sheet.

I sit down and realize, no Joyce. Crap. Now I have no one to whine to about my tardiness and the Escheresc nature of the campus. I think about calling her again while listening to the teacher say no cell phones in class. I’m starting to worry when Joyce huffs into class, limping. Apparently, she’s noticed the stairs. (And she’s already worked out today as well.) So, we listen to the teacher drone on until we’re released into the wild of the campus to find supplies and sustenance. We go down two flights of stairs to the bookstore so Joyce can get a parking permit. We whine about the sheer number of stairs.

Joyce’s limping becomes pronounced. The up and down stairs is inflaming her heel tendonitis. We buy some supplies and make plans to get more at lunch the next day. We separate and try to wend our separate ways down the mulititude of stairs to our cars. I don’t have tendonitis, but my feet hurt by the time I find my car and I’m cursing the campus. The architect should rot in a hell made of stairs.

The next day, Joyce is very late to work and looks upset. Her tendonitis was so bad, she went to the doctor because after so many stairs, she was having trouble just walking. He played with her foot, popped something, made her teary and swear in many languages, then promptly gave her a note for handicap parking and many weeks of physical therapy.

Moral of the story? Always be sure to catch a ride with Joyce if you don’t want to climb stairs. Oh, and architects who model life after Escher can suck it! Bastards…