Dammit, Jim, I’m an Advisor Not a Brick Layer
An academic cleaning fest goes awry.
Advisors do everything. They help students figure out their schedules. They listen to break-up stories and offer tissues. They help students (and often staff and faculty) find campus and off-campus resources. Sometimes they clean out the office fridge, hotwire copiers, and haul furniture. If you are an advisor, you just don’t know what you might end up doing on any given day.
One day, my department chair had gotten a bee in her bonnet about taking an entire day to clean our offices and go through old files. In retrospect, this was probably a really good idea as we all had mountains and mountains of old files and paperwork literally oozing from our cabinets.
I believe some of them contained memos from Watergate, Project Blue Book, and possibly even some notes from Ben Franklin on electricity.
Now, our boss was leading the way, busily sorting through cabinets laden with old files. I believe some of them contained memos from Watergate, Project Blue Book, and possibly even some notes from Ben Franklin on electricity. She was happily — or perhaps more accurately — maniacally tossing files into the recycling bin, which she had hauled into her office. Whenever she came across sensitive papers, like a list of suspected Communists from the 50’s or references to Area 51 she yelled out the door like the German woman from the Austin Powers movie, “Marta!” (Not her real name.)
Marta would come running in to get a stack of these sensitive papers and take them out to a giant, industrial-sized shredder and commence to creating giants bags of confetti. I felt like I was part of a festive academic version of Enron.
Anyhow, since my boss was yelling, “Marta!” out of the door every 10 minutes or so I had tuned her out. Now, she would’ve probably said that I tuned her out on a regular basis, which was true. Most of the time I simply heard the voice of the teacher from Charlie Brown when she talks. Wah wah wah.
Suffice it to say, I did not notice when there was a squeal and a new sense of urgency when she shouted, “Marta!” I did not notice until both my boss and Marta, squealed and Marta knocked over a humongous stack of papers causing a giant cloud of dust to come swirling up. Only then did I meander in to see what was going on.
They grabbed my arms and pulled me over to an ancient filing cabinet that looked like WWII surplus. Among the half-emptied files was evidence that some small nasty creature had taken up residence as there were droppings, a tiny bag of half-eaten potato chips, Barbie-sized boxes of Chinese takeout, and what looked like a busted up sofa from an ant circus. “There’s a cockroach in there!” they screeched.
“Yep,” I agreed. It did look like a cockroach was living there and from the mess in the drawer, I guessed he had been living there for several years. This made me wonder exactly when the last time my boss had been in that cabinet, if ever.
She was busy wringing her hands and Marta circled around the office scrutinizing every pile of paper as if it harbored a cockroach as well.
Now, I have to say that I was quite surprised by my boss. She is one tough cookie. I’ve seen her go toe-to-toe with the provost and not even blink an eye when students shouted voodoo curses at her. Plus, I knew her history of what she did before academia and she had been involved in blood and guts, literally as an EMS tech. So to see her go all damsel-in-distress was a bit of a shock.
Meanwhile, Marta had gone around the department looking for assistance in handling this diabolical insect. She burst back into the office and announced, “There are no boys on the floor!” Marta was convinced that this situation needed to be handled by the male of the species.
At that moment, my boss cautiously peeked in the drawer, moving one of the folders. A dark blob moved slowly. It was one of the largest and possibly oldest cockroaches I had ever seen. I am almost positive I saw it using a cane. Both Marta and my boss screamed. Marta ran out of the office. My boss clutched her hands to her bosom like some southern belle.
“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” I said, looking around the office for a suitable weapon. Not finding anything, I promptly removed my shoe and killed it with one solid whack. I scraped off the dead cockroach into the trash, put my shoe back on, and headed out the door.
“Why do advisors have to do everything?” I wondered.
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