Thursday, July 27, 2006

A not so sad case of vandalism

I'm moving offices this summer, taking over the office of my colleague who graduated (aka retired), in a quieter area of the building with a way better view. I'll actually be able to see trees and stuff!

The office was a not so lovely mint green, sort of that institutional green I associate with bad 60's movies about psych hospitals or something.

So, I asked about getting it painted. What I learned is that the university, to save money, no longer does routine painting for maintenance. But the maintenance folks will paint an office institutional off-white if the department pays for it. And it only takes three to six weeks.

Like all state universities these days, I imagine, we're short office space in my department.

So when I move out of my old office near the elevator and right across from the department, another faculty member will get to come out of the English department diaspora and join the main floor. Then an adjunct will get to move into her office (and out of a less convenient one) and so on down the line. (Yes, when I heard that this office was going to be empty, I put in my request to move pretty instantly. My old office is in a loud space, not only because of the elevator and proximity to the department office, but because there are some loud folks in nearby offices.)

So, if I put off moving for three to six weeks, the others won't get a chance to start their moving until the beginning of the semester. That seems like a bad idea for our little community.

Then there's the institutional off-white thing. When I was in grad school, several of my graduate professors had offices painted really great colors; someone had pink, someone else green, and so forth. Since I've had hopes of having an office, I've long thought it would be great to paint my office some really great color.

So I talked to the chair. What would happen, I asked, if my office were to get painted some nice color? The chair said he didn't think anyone else would notice, and if they did, well, what would they do, order up a new paint job just for the joy of it? But the department could only pay for me to get institutional off-white painted, and he'd order that up if I wanted.

(In the old days, before money got quite so tight, the university would actually paint people's offices whatever colors they requested when they moved into one. Not so anymore.)

I chatted with R, the guy responsible for our building's maintenance work. R has to balance the timing between my colleague cleaning out his office and my moving in, and in between, he has to move all the furniture out of the office, wash walls for the painters, strip the linoleum, put on coats of wax, wait for the painters to do their deed, then move the furniture back in. I asked him what would happen if the office were to mysteriously be painted some afternoon after all the furniture is moved out?

He said it would be handy if he knew when so he could wait to strip the floors.

I asked him if there might be a ladder that could be left in the room? He said he'd find one.

So, this week, my new office got emptied, and R pulled out all the furniture and washed the walls. Conveniently, a ladder was left in the office, and a fan to help things dry and get aired out. (R has been so helpful! Thank you, R!)

Then, mysteriously, on Tuesday, that blue tape appeared around edges, and then the walls got a coat of paint, two a light ivory off-white, and two a nice, relaxing, deep green.


I told the admin assistant when I came in the next morning that my office had been vandalized. I told the chair, and he said it was a shame, and that he thought the building maintenance department would be so upset about the vandalism that it just wasn't worth mentioning it to them. (Then, yes, there were the predictable jokes about Germanic tribes running rampant around the NorthWoods.)

That very afternoon, another coat of paint mysteriously appeared!

Okay, so I've sort of broken the rules, with lots of helpful complicity, especially from a friend who helped me paint and the maintenance guy who scheduled his floor cleaning around my painting. But I bought the paint myself and provided the labor (with a little help from a friend!), so it didn't cost the university any money. (Okay, it cost a little in chatting time with the maintenance guy.)

And it bought the university a faculty member who is VERY happy with the wall colors of her new home away from home!

I figure I'll be in this office maybe another 20 years, if I'm lucky, or more if my retirement planning doesn't go smoothly or Social Security looks scary or something. It's well worth the money and time to have an office that's going to make me smile when I walk in.

It also bought the university a bit of laughter for our admin assistants, the maintenance guy, and the chair; and who knows, maybe that laughter prevented some stress problem?

1 comment:

  1. LOVE this post... I've been plotting similar acts of vandalism in my own office - whenever I ask about whether it would be allowed, the answer has been "Don't ask, just do it, and no one will care."