Friday, February 18, 2005

At the school for the gifted

The engineering building had four floors: Ground, Mezzanine, 2, and 3. The mezzanine was weird and only accessible from its own staircase in the front hall and from the master staircase in the back of the building. For us chemical engineers, the action was all on the ground floor (our lab and the Coke machine), the mezzanine (computer lab and business office), and the 3rd floor (Chem. E. department office, seminar room, snack machine and the other Coke machine). The second floor may as well have not existed.

This is relevant because of the doorknobs in the back stairwell. The doors from this stairwell to the main floors were the hollow metal kind, and the doorknobs on the ground floor, the mezzanine, and the third floor were broken so that you didn’t have to turn the doorknob in order to open the door. If you were trying to get into the stairwell with full hands, or if you were just having a bad day, you could kick the door open which made a very satisfying thwack.

Unfortunately, the door to the second floor had a perfectly functional doorknob. You had to turn that one, and I can’t tell you how many times it got us. The Doktah and I, for example, might be happily walking along, chatting about our day, and we’d walk straight into the door. Very jarring. It was remarkably difficult to remember that the second floor was different. The Doktah used to tell herself on way upstairs, “Turn the doorknob, turn the doorknob, turn the doorknob…” but then something would distract her and she’d try to pull the door open without turning it.

The phenomenon was not isolated to this single staircase. Because we ran up and down those stairs tens of times a day, we typically forgot to turn the doorknob of any similar hollow metal door, no matter the location, and we would look like idiots to the general public.

The worst happened during my last months at grad school: They fixed the doorknob on the third floor. After 5 and a half years of not needing to turn the knob, we suddenly had to.

The Doktah almost broke her foot.

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