My current office is a cubicle in the chemistry building.
At least I think it’s the chemistry building. There are many different genres of science at Rice — although I suspect scientists don’t call their respective fields genres? — so I am not certain that chemistry is what happens in my building. It could be bioengineering or nanotubing or whatever field it is that involves the discovery of the buckyball.
Life is baffling as a writing professor in the perhaps-chemistry building. The posters on the doors leading into the building advertise events with names like Beyond Graphemes! (Okay, okay. I added the exclamation point. But don’t you think it needs one?) Often, upon opening said doors, I’ve staggered backward, assaulted by noxious odors that may or may not erode the lining of my lungs. My office shares a hallway with a room where rattling machines swirl test-tubed liquids in soothing, rhythmic movements. Crushed ice fills a nearby cooler. On this cooler is a handwritten sign with the reassuring message: This ice is for HUMAN CONSUMPTION ONLY.
I have consumed this ice many times, and I have not keeled over or found myself growing a third arm. So this sign. It does not lie.
Last semester, the office next to mine was, apparently, the site of a light-sensitive experiment. A sign on the door told me so and warned me not to open the door. (Scientists like their signs!) This, of course, made me really want to open the door. Each time I passed that office, I speculated on what would happen if I recklessly disregarded the sign and turned the knob. A ray of fluorescent hallway lighting would fall across the room, finally settling on an ominous collection of petri dishes. They would start to tremble. Cells would divide riotously. Broken glass! Suckered tentacles! Danger, Will Robinson!
Next to the light-experiment office is a wall-mounted trauma blanket for burns, shock, and other sundry accidents, and across the hall is an emergency shower and eye wash. Sometimes, after a particularly thorny meeting with a student about a rewrite, I have considered using both.
I share my cubicle in the perhaps-chemistry building with the lovely Sarah. I never see Sarah because we teach opposite schedules, but for a time we communicated by posting on our cabinet door jokes related to the epic and not at all ridiculous movie Snakes on a Plane. I left a small movie poster for the low-budget companion film, Snakes on a Train. (It’s real!) She left a pseudo movie poster for Snakes on Every Plane. (“We’re going to need a lot more Samuel L. Jacksons!)
Swapping Samuel L. Jackson notes with Sarah is perhaps the only thing I am going to miss about my cubicle in the perhaps-chemistry building. One of the perks of getting a job, after all, is that I finally get an office. With a DOOR. I am salivating over the prospect of a non-cubicle office in a building that does not always smell like burnt rubber and hand sanitizer.Next year, my good friend Ryan will also be enjoying his own office with a door (and, in his case, with a fireplace!), so we have been discussing new office decor. I’m mostly excited to have an out-of-my-house place to shelf my research- and teaching-related books, but I’m also considering a minimalist children’s lit poster. The Wizard of Oz one is fantastic but perhaps inappropriate. So I’m thinking Little Red Riding Hood, a narrative I teach often. So, carrots readers, what would you suggest as appropriate decor for my new office? My new office with a door! Hooray!