Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Unguided Tour of Coastal Carolina University, 2013.

The other week I visited my old alma mater, Coastal Carolina University. I spent four years there, from 1998-2002,  while I busily worked on my B.A. in English. While it seems rather long ago now, my affection for the place hasn't changed in the least. Originally, I drove up to Conway to attend the Dr. Paul Rice Memorial Concert on the Thursday night before my poetry retreat. It was perfect - Dr. Rice was my poetic mentor, and it was the best way I could think of to kick off the weekend. Friday's work could be done remotely, after all.

After spending a lovely night near campus after the concert, luxuriating in the guest room at a friend's house, I decided to visit Coastal again on Friday morning. The concert on Thursday night, while beautiful and fulfilling, had not quite squelched my desire to roam my old haunt. So, I threw my duffle into my car trunk and headed for what used to be the visitor's parking beside the Wall Building - but more on that later.

There's so much to say about my experience! I really made it happen for myself. I mean, other 33-year-olds might have walked around, admired (or lamented) the progress of campus and new buildings, then drove away. I, on the other hand, really sank my teeth into it. So, I've decided to compile a list of the highlights. Here goes!

1. Breakfast at the CINO Grille. This was where I began my romp about campus. It looked nothing like the days I would order a grilled cheese and pore over my philosophy notes. A very nice, close to graduating senior helped me figure out how the eff to order eggs on the fancy, new computer. The funniest moment was when I got in line with my food and large coffee (using a debit card, not a student ID) and mentioned to the woman who rang me up that I graduated in 2002. She responded she'd been working there since then!

"...but I don't remember you," she said.


2. I totally wigged out when I initially thought that the Kimbel Library was gone, only to be replaced by some fancy "information center." So I did what any demanding alumna would do - I tapped a chick in front of me on her shoulder, desperate to find out the truth.

"Where is the library? The old one?" I asked, my voice warbling with emotion.
"What old library? Where was it? Across the street?" She and her pal were clueless.

Luckily, I finally realized that my dumbass hadn't seen that the old library was right there all along - it was just utterly remodeled to the point of my not recognizing it from that angle of the sidewalk. Sheesh.

3. The ice-cream-cone-alarm-incident, as I've now come to call it, was by far the best part of the day. I waltzed into the freshman cafeteria and breezed right over to the woman checking IDs like I owned the joint. I explained that I graduated in 2002 and "just wanted to look around." She waved me in.

Moments later, I discovered the soft serve machine and helped myself to a cone of chocolate and vanilla swirl. I told myself the damn place owed me - I'd given them thousands of dollars for my education and by golly, they could spare my midmorning snack. I took my prize out into the new courtyard beside the freshman dorm and licked the cone nostalgically. Did I really steal it? I guess it depends on who you ask. But when I tried to exit the fenced-in seating area, something crazy happened - THE BUILDING ALARM WENT OFF. FULL BLAST. EVERYONE COULD HEAR IT.

Apparently, it was the emergency exit.

I muttered a few words I probably would've never said as an innocent student, then hightailed it, dripping cone included, to the nearest place that wasn't the cafeteria: the freshman dorm. Two resident assistants sat behind the desk, looking bored. They didn't care that I'd set the alarm off. They also didn't care that I was eating ice cream over their desk, nor that I got on the elevator and rode it to the third floor like I belonged there. I guess I don't look as old as I feel.

4. Hanging with the people that currently live in my old freshman dorm room, 306, was both heart-wrenching and awesome. You see, I decided, once I darted onto the elevator, to find my old room from 1998. I couldn't quite remember the number, but I figured I'd go on intuition. Eventually, I realized that the two freshman boys in front of me in the hallway were getting ready to unlock the doorknob to what used to be my home! What are the odds?!

"Not to be weird," I began, (I figured i had nothing to lose after stealing ice cream and setting alarms off.) ...but I used to live in this very room as a freshman 15 years ago!"

They were awestruck.

"Come in!" they beckoned. The place was the usual pigsty. I politely stood in the corner and chatted with them for a good twenty minutes or so, about everything from life at Coastal, to adulthood, to the chance that they'd make any money based on their majors. It was so cool. 

After I parted ways with the guys, I promptly met some friendly chicks who showed me what the apartment style dorms, which I'd lived in as a sophomore and junior, look like these days. Overall, none of the dorms have changed much, other than the fancy names. But it was pretty interesting to find out for myself.

5. Refusing my undeserved parking ticket was not really necessary (What can campus police do to me, take away my degree??) but it was still fun. I called the number on the back of my ticket that awaited me at my car -which was parked in a spot marked visitor! - and raised hell with the public safety peeps.

"I graduated from this place in 2002 and I parked in a spot marked visitor so I could look around and see what's new on campus!" I bellowed into my phone over lunch at the Market Common, once the office finally called back.

"Ma'am, we'll forget about the ticket this time, but you need a visitor pass to visit the campus," the woman on the other end explained.

Whatever. I do what I want on that campus, obviously.

In conclusion, though I spent ample time reminiscing in the hallways of the English building, sitting in the courtyard, walking in and out of new buildings and thinking back to my glory days, my favorite parts of the morning turned out to be the interactions I had with students, staff and people that visitors might not usually strike up conversations with. I feel like I got the real scoop on Coastal Carolina University, circa 2013. And I have to admit I'll probably go back in a few years - or sooner - and give myself another tour.

But next time,  I'll remember not to use the emergency exit.

Go Chants!

I remember (and love) this view. 

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