The Unswung Bat

Wednesday, March 02, 2005
 
That Salty-Dry St. Georgian Wit

So, hello there my compañeros and compañeras. My it's been a red-letter day for me, if I'm not mistaken about the expression "red-letter" meaning "hellish and interminable."

It seems my various primatological studies have launched me on a research trip/flight of fancy to the whimsical - unless I'm wrong about "whimsical" meaning "shit-sty" - University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus. In case any of you are less than comfortably familiar with Scarborough - congratulations! It is one of the many organs constituting the fantastic beast that is Toronto and Environs. "Fantastic" means the same thing as "whimsical," right?

Now if Downtown Toronto is the nerve center, Scarborough is the vermiform appendix: sparsely developed, underused, and entirely peripheral, yet prone to unpleasant bloating and the accumulation of undesirable elements. Arguably, it's still nicer than the industrial kidneys of Hamilton, and it's way the hell better than whatever godforsaken freakishly tumorous vesicle is Peterborough, but neither of the above does well as an endorsement.

As if being in Scarborough weren't nasty enough, getting there is a whole other bag of worms. One bus driver rolled right past my stop, my efforts in pulling the chain and then yelling "Hey, I need to get off here," notwithstanding. What'd he say? "No time." The next two drivers into whose hands were entrusted the lives of passengers and fellow motorists, both scrutinized my newly bought metropass with the nearest bus-driver equivalent to a jeweler's loupe and a fine-toothed comb, as if inwardly aching to find something wrong with it. Though I'd been careful to fill out the pass exactly as required, the last of these drivers gave me a little warning pamphlet anyway, just to let me know that he could have confiscated my pass with impunity, so fast it would make my head spin, had I but filled in the wrong letters on top. (The TTC's motto: "We're pricks! Especially in the suburbs.") Hm, pricks in the suburbs, inappropriate? One of them actually drove off with a textbook of mine, though that was more my fault than anything else, so I left it out of the "we're pricks" block.

But I digress, Fair Reader. These were but my conveyances to and from the deliciously fabulous Joyplex of UTSC. They have banners up everywhere, there, that say something like "40 Great Years!" Their slogan could also be "40 Years Without Straight Roads or Snowplows!"

Actually, the no-plow thing isn't really an issue once one finds one's way into the main building, the entrance to which is camouflaged by massive construction - ah, at least I know it's still U of T at heart. See, the entire campus is more or less indoors. Also, it seems UTSC was envisioned as the physical answer to the philosophical question "What if you could fold up your university and walk away with it in your pocket?" It's tiny! It's like a . . . double-highschool. Cocky be you not, however, as its various chambers are connected by a maddening warren of tunnels that follows no pattern discernible to man or beast, but that's just because someone scrambled it all up. Once upon a time all the colored blocks of the mildly non-Euclidean building formed a cube of six solid-color sides of nine squares each, before the unbalancing comings and goings of students lead to a catastrophic Cascade De-Rubixing. I believe it's also possible to reconfigure the layout of the sprawling complex such that it transforms into Megatron, Lord of the Deceptacons, and wages merciless war on humans and Autobots alike.

Seriously though, I'm just trying to be humorous to induce myself to forget that I may have just lost a $160 textbook. Not only that, but I'd just checked it out of the library and it was the main reason for my trip in the first place.

Ah! The library. Well, finding the library couldn't be very hard, since as I said, the entire ironically named "campus" occupies approximately the same area and volume as St. George campus's Department of Asian Foot Medicine*. But that would be getting cocky, for remember I said as well that its bitelike size belies a complexity compared to which the courts of Byzantium are collectively Sesame Street. If you've ever seen The Yellow Submarine and you remember the part where the Beatles walk through a door in a hallway and enter an acid-induced, labyrinthine n-space, which gives way to a polka-dot jungle of no fixed perspective, that then leads back to the original hallway, I did a couple of those today.

Not on the back, but on one of the sides of my mind was the thought that I might run into Chris or Bettio and be able to ask them "hey, Chris or Bettio, where the hell'd they hide the library?" No dice.

Oh, there were maps a-plenty, and they were just as frustrating, and as useful, as those cans purporting to hold yummy mixed nuts, only to explode in seedless showers of snakes and glitter. There were "maps" everywhere, but aside from the woeful absence of the words "you are here," what these all had in common was the failure, almost spiteful, to acknowledge that the campus existed in more than two dimensions, and indeed more even than the traditionally preferred three. That the space of the campus was partitioned such that some areas were inaccessible from others, or the mere fact that the exterior walls contained anything other than undifferentiated open space painted a uniform color, were all considerations beyond the scope of these maplike wall-hangings.

I think the layout of the place was planned along the lines of: "let's have lots of windey hallways and staircases for no reason and odd angles at every corner and let's slap lotsa purely decorative maps all over the place I love maps it'll be Supergreat!" I suspect that the word "Supergreat" is even crayoned onto the original architectural plans.

The coolest part, bar none, was that once I actually found the library - not the entrance to it, but at least a sort of viewing gallery into it that, while offering no promise of access or egress, at least confirmed the existence of some sort of book repository - all the books on the nearest row of bookshelves were taped down onto the shelves! They even had a sign hanging off 'em saying "DO NOT MOVE!" Them's load-bearing books, it seems. Of course, the way that place is put together, I wouldn't become the least bit surprised if that sector of the library turned out to be spatially warped and required the extra mass of the textbooks to anchor it to this dimension of reality. I steered clear of there.

Having thus seen the library with mine own twain eyes, I thought I could find my way in by the simple dint of following the wall. Not so. Doing that led me first into a small sociology classroom where my sudden appearance and retreat perturbed none, then to a different classroom where, though I didn't enter and the door was wide open anyway, everyone stopped what they were doing to look at me. I tried not to break eye contact as I backed away. Finally, I discovered a sorry, threadbare breakroom where a giant red sign - almost the only "furnishing" the room had - warned "NO THEFT" and provided depressing reminders that: a) there are some people who would steal cafeteria chairs and garbage pails, and b) some of those people need to be told that stealing is against the rules. Alternatively, one could phrase b) as: "there are those who think that reminding people that stealing is against the rules is a deterrent to theft," but I guess I'm an optimist. Anyway, none of that is a dig against UTSC specifically, as Downtown has its fair share of that fun, too.

My wall-following shenanigans availing me nought, I turned to other tacks. At one point I found myself outside, on the grossly mistaken assumption that it might be easier to find the library from there. Little did I know at that juncture that the library itself was ensconced within a diabolical matrix of corridors and flickering stairwells, each level nearer the Library Prime straying further from the warm confines of sound geometric reasoning. Thank heaven I thought to eat a decent meal before leaving god-fearing Toronto and the space-time continuum.

No, from the outside of the complex, the only sights to be had were of an encroaching snowbank, a gray, howling sky, and a Chthonian ziggurat - I kid you not!

Actually, it wasn't so much a ziggurat as it was a half hearted attempt at one, beginning along the right lines and even possessing one central, jagged wedge that suggested the proper contour, but within a few steps of the base devolving into a disorganized pile of tall cement ingots, creating the overall impression of a pyramid that didn't try hard enough in highschool.

Okay, to the two friends I've got at UTSC: I'm just trashing your stupid school for jerks 'cause I had a really bad day and managed to get even more perplexed there than I ever have at my stupid school for jerks. Take all of this as my side of a story about how much better your day was than mine. Mind you, your school still makes no fucking sense, but everything is beautiful in its own way, except carnies. Small hands, you know.

So at the end of my story, after unravelling the riddle of the seventh veil and following a path determined by a complicated sequence of prime numbers, I found my way into the library and came away with my books, minus the one that stayed on the bus for the long ride. Here's hoping that one shows up at the Lost Items office at good ol' centrally-located Bay Station.

As far as I'm concerned, the moral of this story is that Scarborough campus, and much of the surrounding borough, now exist in a forbidden swath of the map where there be dragons. My sojourns there are over. It makes me wonder if the three U of T campuses are laid out to accord with the Divine Comedy. I'm pretty sure St. George isn't heaven. It can duke it out with UTSC for Purgatory status. Shouldn't be too tough, unless Scarborough gets its hands on sufficient Energon to unleash Megatron's terrible power.

Is Erindale campus a celestial clockwork of crystal spheres, each turning harmoniously in perpetual motion, filling the firmament with their heavenly music, each one closer than the last to that One Unchanging, All-Enduring Ever-Perfect Eternal Flame? I must find out . . . sometime.

Wow, that was long. What else has happened?

Well, our breadmaker tried to take its own life. Quite ingeniously, too. You see, the bread cycle includes a 20- or 30-minute long kneading phase during which the bread is spun around quickly and whacked by a little paddle inside the machine. Being the happy-go-lucky chaps we are, we rapidly grew accustomed to the rhythmic thunk-ka-thunk of this mechanic, little suspecting that, like a washing machine with an unbalanced load, our unstable little breadmaker was rocking back and forth, edging ever closer to the lip of doom.

With a terrible heave, it finally plunged off the countertop today. It's okay, though, it still works the same as always and we fixed it so that, if it wants to try that again it'll have to throw the microwave off first. And I think the microwave might just put up a fight.

Still, a suicidal breadmaker makes me wonder what other troubled appliances we own. Our VCR won't cooperate unless you stick a spoon into it. I don't know what that indicates.

So, this is kind of a pisser but kind of reassuring: the word count of this ramble is more than enough to satisfy the requirements of my essays, and the writing is generally of better quality, too. Yet I agonize over those on a rack of existential torture, while this I winged through in a couple hours, just passing the time.

Good? Bad? You decide. Either way, likely to be my last piece of leisurely writing in a while, as school is screaming for my attention like an infant with its foot chopped off.

Good night.



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