I worked late this evening in White Hall, the lovely building on campus that houses the English, History, and Christian Studies departments. My last colleagues, April and Debbie, had left sometime before 6 p.m. I grabbed a quick dinner from the bagel shop across the street and ate while I finished a PowerPoint for my lecture tomorrow morning.
My to-do list seemed to be miles long, and I was feeling anxious about how to cram all the information I need to teach into the time allotted. Although this is my fourth year teaching, I’m teaching Composition & Literature for the first time this semester, at 8:00 in the morning, which is a daunting hour for even the most experienced instructor.
I was sitting at my desk, finishing my Diet Pepsi, listening to Moby, and tackling my to-do list when 7:30 rolled around, and I heard the familiar sounds of the campus security officer closing up the building. I’ve worked late enough times to know the routine: he would secure the downstairs, make his way upstairs to check all the office doors, and stop at my open door for a bit of small talk.
That’s exactly how it worked. I turned in my chair to face the door, and the officer–not the usual one I have encountered in previous semesters–stepped through my open door to say hello and run through the drill. “I’ve locked this side door and the one downstairs. Everything else is closed. Turn your light off and pull the door behind you.” He checked my door, which was already locked and ready to be closed up when I left.
I assured him that I would do that, and he turned to the door, noticing the name plate. “I noticed you’re not Tim Hendrix,” he stated. “May I ask who you are?” I told him my name, explained my many jobs on campus, and said, “I don’t get a name plate since I’m only adjunct. I have to share.”
“Well, Ms. Gambrell,”–so polite!–“you’ll be safe here. Stay as long as you need. You’re right at home.”
Indeed, I was. For nine years, there has been nothing in my life as unwavering as North Greenville, and White Hall in particular. I spent four years attending class in the now non-existent classroom 109. I’ve had many conversations–both serious and frivolous–on its rocking chairs and sofas, gracing its doorways, roaming its hall. When I began teaching English three years ago, one of the greatest joys in a semester full of joyous events was preparing for class in the early morning while drinking coffee and watching the sunrise over the mountains. In recent months, I have seen more sunsets than sunrises, on those late evenings like tonight when I have, unaccompanied, written pages of my thesis, read novels and theories, created quizzes and handouts, graded essays and journals.
In White Hall, I have shed tears of joy and of sadness. I have smiled, laughed, hugged.
I have taught. I have learned. I have loved and been loved.
“Stay as long as you need. You’re right at home.”