Sunday, June 8, 2014

DAY TWO HUNDRED TWENTY - On Being a Very Willing Guinea Pig

There was never any question that we would be one of the very first people to live on the new NYUAD campus, and in fact we were the very first. Doug's mission here was to get the campus IT network up and running by the June 1st opening date, so he wanted to be here before people started moving in to be sure that all was working as it was supposed to work. We were to be the IT Guinea Pigs. As it turned out, we (quite willingly) became guinea pigs for much more.

One of the many challenges with this campus is that while it was under construction, no one but the contractors could have access to it. So while you knew that thus-and-such a system or doo-hickey or gadget or appliance or whatever was supposed to be in place, no one actually knew for a fact that it was till they were here and looking at "it" with their own eyes. There was not a lot of time to test things out. Mere days.

While Doug deals with all the campus technology, I have been dealing with the more mundane perhaps, but very important issues of "livability." Just how does one get along on this campus? Where is everything? How do I get to the parking garage from my apartment, for example? Or even more basic, how does one dispose of one's trash????

Our trash chute. Seriously, have you ever seen one like this with all the buttons? 

On our first day here I stepped out in the hallway in search of the trash room, or Refuse Room as it is called here. I opened a door and found this. Now I am used to a simple chute - you pull the handle, drop in your trash, and away it goes - but instead I found this.  I pulled the handle - it wouldn't open. I pushed some buttons (which were NOT labeled at that time), and they lit up but the chute still did not open. Stymied I left my bag on the floor but felt very guilty about it. I also didn't see any bins for recycling and wondered what, if anything, was recycled on campus because it's not universal in this country.

I looked up the email for the Help Desk and sent an inquiry asking about the garbage and recycling. About two hours later Louise, the manager in charge of housekeeping, was at my door with laminated signs in hand. My inquiry prompted her to make signs and labels which she put in each refuse room. In her very strong Irish brogue she explained how the chute works: green is for plastic, white for paper, and black for general refuse. If I have plastic to recycle, I press the white button on the right. A red button remains on while the chute shifts down in the basement somewhere and lines up with the proper bin. When the green light goes on I can open the door and drop down my plastic. Then if I have regular refuse, I press the black button, the red light goes on (door cannot be opened) and about 10 seconds pass while the chute chugs along and aligns with another bin. The green light goes on, I can open the chute, and there you go. Honestly, if Louse hadn't shown me how the thing works, I never would have figured it out, and I am quite sure most other residents would have been equally baffled.

One of my happy discoveries in our new apartment is that it has an excellent quality stacking washer/dryer. The real deal. Not one of those funky combination washerdryer machines like I had in the previous two apartments and which took half a day to do a minuscule load. I got in the habit, out of pure necessity, of taking all my laundry - clothes, sheets, towels - to a local laundry where they did it quickly, brought it right to my door, and it cost very little. Here on the campus I can now do most of my laundry, but I have decided I am done with washing and ironing Doug's shirts and trousers. So I pulled out my handy manual, looked up laundry services, and noted that a pick-up/drop-off service is available or laundry can be dropped off at the convenience store before 5:00 pm daily with a 72-hour turnaround.  

I am being very intentional about doing as much walking as possible these days especially since the campus is a pedestrian campus - no vehicles are allowed. And it's just so pretty out - I love walking and taking in the landscaping and seeing what there is to see. So I pulled out a large plastic bag and loaded in a bunch of Doug's shirts and some of my tops which needed dry cleaning, and off I marched to the temporary Convenience Store. 

I walked in and was greeted by the two, very friendly clerks, but when I presented my bag of laundry I could see their eyes widen. By the glances they exchanged, I just knew. 
"I'm the first person to bring in laundry, right?"
"Yes, Madam," (accent on the second syllable) the young woman replied. Then she shooed her assistant outside so he could call their manager on his cell phone and find out what to do.

The female clerk pulled out an order form which was half in English and half in Arabic, and we scrutinized it together. I could see it was the usual form listing shirts, trousers, t-shirts, skirts, and so on, but it looked like you could have shirts washed and ironed or ironed only..... but it wasn't entirely clear. The clerk also knew nothing about payment - could I pay on the spot if I wanted or only upon pickup? This did not surprise me because when we first went to the campus dining hall, the cashier was clearly learning the ropes as he consulted his chart for every little item. And the people at the little Starbucks kiosks are still learning how to make their drinks. It's a learning experience for everybody on campus, and everybody who is here (well, most everybody....) is being very patient and handling things with good humor. We're all in the same boat together. We figure the goal is to work out the kinks and glitches as much as possible over the Summer so that everything is up and running smoothly by the time the faculty and students arrive in mid-August. 

Finally I wrote down all my contact information and left my bag of laundry with the two clerks. I told them I'd stop by this afternoon and find out the story. I trust by then they will have spoken with their manager and learned how to handle a laundry drop-off. I know some people can be cranky and impatient (I've encountered enough of them in my lifetime!), so I am actually happy to be the first person to bring in laundry. I'm not in a rush - let them learn the ropes with me. I'm sure when the next person comes in bearing laundry, they will handle it quickly and professionally. 

I think for everybody who chose to live on campus over the Summer - and it was a choice - that this is part of the mission, one of the points of  being here. Yes I do get frustrated now and then, but mostly I am having fun trying out things, and seeing how they work. When I chat with the other residents here, we share stories and we laugh. We're all very willing guinea pigs. 

And fussbudget that I am, I think I make a darn good one. 

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