After months of negotiations, numerous emails, a site visit, more emails, committee meetings, faculty meetings, even more emails, I have finally completed the task of putting in place an exchange program between our law school and one of the campuses of the University of Paris. One thing remained: I needed to get the agreement signed by our chancellor.
Mind you, I believed it to be a formality. As I write this post, students are lined up, waiting for the green light, so that they can get their visas for a semester of fantastic pommes frites. And good classes, of course. Another handful in Paris are at this very moment, I am sure, surfing the Net, finding out what this city of Madison is all about -- whether it has the same joie de vivre as their home town (at a stretch…), what the quintessential Madison eating experience is all about (well, there’s Dotty’s…) and whether there are sidewalk cafés (yes! and they have WiFi, mixed blessing that it is).
I was not going to leave the last dotting of the i to chance. I took it upon myself to walk the Agreement up to the ruling parties up there atop Bascom Hill.
I look outside – it’s snowing hard. Wet fat flakes covering the lawn on the Hill.
Damn. I search for a large envelope to protect the prepared document and quickly snatch one of those intra-campus ones, with holes in it for God knows what reason. I walk up, face turned down, trying not to think about the fact that this is what is affectionately referred to as spring in this state.
I locate the office of the administrative assistant.
It’s the Exchange Program Agreement? She asks.
I nod, shaking off even more snow from my jacket, my bag, my camera case.
She removes the document, marked now by wet flakes that made their way through the envelope openings.
It’s wet, she says.
It’s snowing, I say.
We are engaged in a conversation about the obvious.
I am not about to go back and do this thing over. So the Chancellor has to sign a wet document. So what. I leave the office as the assistant dabs away at the pages.
Outside, looking down the hill, I think about how if I lived in the suburbs, I’d be getting in my car to drive home. I have no car now, I have no campus parking. I don’t even have an umbrella, at least not with me.
I take a photo of good old Abe. The glory of being positioned at the top of Bascom Hill in Madison Wisconsin brings with it the burden of enduring these kinds of spring days.
I put away the camera, do another circle of scarf around my neck and walk home.