To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Year 3: Part 1: Post 11: Magic Signs

We have just "sprung forward."

Allen apparently gets a big kick out of it. Every year, just before Daylight Savings Time begins, he walks around saying things like "tonight, in a special, rare performance, I shall actually change time itself!" and "you have incredible magical power; you can actually change time!" He's joking, of course.

And he isn't joking. Allen has always been fascinated by the magic of illusion, perception, and changes to agreed-upon reality.

Charlie makes a similar point about Daylight Savings Time, but he isn't happy about it.

"If they passed a law saying that everybody had to get up and go to work an hour earlier than normal, everybody would rebel, but pass a law that we have to pretend it is an hour later than it really is and everybody complies! Time is the sun, the moon, the rhythm of growing things, or even the oscillation of a damn cesium atom. The government can't change time by fiat."

Personally, I think Charlie gets a kick out of such grumblings and growlings. He certainly gets a kick out of us listening to him growl.

Meanwhile, campus is leisurely preparing for the beginning of classes. Or, rather, it seems leisurely to me because things that take place within a week or two before the other semesters are stretched out across a month. It's possible that the masters simply have more to do in the spring, that they do some preparation for the entire year now.

It's been a few weeks now since the new yearlings found out how much advanced standing they have. We don't have any "one-hit wonders" this year, although two of the mastery candidates, Arthur and Poem, anticipate earning their rings in just a year. Ironically, the two candidates who have been here the longest, Gusty and Lilac, do not expect to earn their rings this year. Anyway, then we all signed up for classes, and we should find out our schedules in a few days. I'm fairly confident I'll get what I signed up for, but occasionally people don't--if too few people sign up for something they sometimes cancel it or if they end up having to schedule two things you signed up for at the same time they'll bump you from one of them.

They're also restocking the herbarium, sprucing up the library and the front office, ordering school supplies and so forth. We do have to buy our own notebooks and everything, but we can buy recycled paper notebooks from the school at cost and almost everybody does.

And they're putting up new room signs in Chapel Hall, where we have most of our classes. This is curious, because there never were room signs in there before--the rooms have numbers or names, but no signs. The first few weeks in spring there are temporary signs made of masking tape stuck to the doors, but not otherwise. And, of course, the names on the fourth and fourth-and-a-half floors change every year. The whole building is intentionally disorienting--like the description of the school in Harry Potter, where stairways move and doors don't open unless you ask nicely.

But now there are going to be signs.

The reason has to do with the school's disability services policy. According to both ethics and the law, the school has to make reasonable accommodation for disabled students and staff, but the school is too cash-poor to invest in all possible accommodations at once. Instead, we accommodate the disabilities that people in the community actually have.

For example, our fire alarms have visual as well as auditory warnings, and there is a TTY in the office, because some years ago there was a Deaf student. When I arrived, there was nothing for blind people, because none had come here. Ebony got her first year of tuition free in payment for teaching the school how to accommodate her.

They're still making subtle changes, and one of these is the addition of signs--in Braille. Ebony finds the whole thing amusing because she doesn't find such signs helpful. They're hard for her to locate, for one. But when Sharon offered to get Braille signs, Ebony agreed, partly because--I think--they are slightly more helpful than nothing, and partly because it appealed to her sense of humor.

So Ebony herself ordered the signs.

I happened to be one of the people who helped put them up--the maintenance crew did it, but one of them was ill that week so I offered to fill in. And I noticed that the messages on the signs seemed a lot longer than they had to be. I got suspicious, and downloaded a Braille alphabet from the Internet. I printed the thing out and went and decoded the signs--we're not using Chapel Hall yet, and it isn't heated, but it's not locked. Of course, that didn't help, because it turns out blind people actually use a sort of Braille short-hand that you can't just learn off the Internet in a day, but eventually I asked Ebony and she fessed up.

I was right to be suspicious, anyway. Each one has a number, followed by a short message:

1. Sighted people think these signs help.
2. F__k the ADA, I've heard it's good in bed.
3. Just saying hi.
4. Hug the next person you meet: see what happens.
5. If the next person who speaks to you asked for sex, would you say yes?
6. Are birds singing today?
7. I am Ebony! I am immortalized now!
8. Did you remember your homework?

And so on. If we ever have another blind student, the entire building will become a secret in-joke. He or she will walk around giggling all the time and no one else will know why.

I figured as long as I have the downloaded alphabet, I might as well learn how to write Ebony's name. So now my new school notebook is covered in little dots. No one knows what the dots mean, not even Ebony--they're written in ordinary pen, so even if I handed her my book she couldn't read them, and I'm not going to tell her.

She doesn't need to know she makes me feel like a twelve-year-old again.

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