It’s after my class and I take my time going up the stairs and into my office, where I often disappear for too long. I meander through the faculty lounge and find some fun.
Professor Dribbles, one of most favorite people, walks in right behind me and says, “Ask me why I’m tired. Why? Because I was at the clinic last night with a UTI”
The idea of a bladder infection makes me wince. Professor Dribbles continues, “Why? Because I’m dehydrated. Why? Because the water fountain is broken.”
I laugh – I think she’s kidding – and tell her she could have gone to any other water fountain in the building, or on campus. We are not in Ethiopia during the famine, we don't have to walk miles in danger in hopes of water.
This answer doesn’t suit her. I understand.
We faculty get used to teaching the same subjects year after year, sitting in the same office year after year, and stopping on the way to class to drink at the same fountain between classes year after year.
One small change in that routine and the foundation of sanity cracks a little.
Yes there are other water fountains but this one is on the FACULTY side, not the student side. It is in a place we can bend, slurp, dribble and adjust without being in the public eye.
I understand my friend and I want to help her so I offer Professor D a diet coke, which she politely declinesAnother professor overhear my offer and sticks his head out of his office – “I’ll take it!” forcing me to play deaf rather than fork over my precious 1-liter bottle to anyone but my beloved Professor friend.
The Dean joins our conversation because he isn’t sure the water fountain is actually broken.
We form a pack (if we had an agenda, it’d be a committee) and head down the hall to investigate.
When we arrive at the water fountain, the Dean pushes the bar and a trickle of water rises up.
Professor Dribbles shakes her head. “It wasn’t like that yesterday.”
He pushes the bar again. Again a little dribble roles out.
To drink from so low a fountain with such a small dribble requires acrobatic talents of bending and twisting, which I impulsively demonstrate to the Dean and the thirsty Professor. I ask her was she trying the water fountain like this? Like this? Or with deep knee bends like this?
More people join our pack mostly to laugh but also to give grave consideration to the water dribble situation. The Dean says he will put in a work order. And with that, quickly enough, we disband, shaking our heads at apparent frailty of this world and all things in it.