What goes on during those forgotten hours of the early morning on campus?
This is a rarely asked question, but one that not many people will truly know the answer to. Maybe you’ve pulled an all-nighter or two, come home late on a Saturday night or just don’t sleep, but I’ll bet my bonnet that most UR students haven’t stopped and taken a look at what’s really going on in those early morning hours before skipping off to bed.
It might seem that there isn’t much to miss. True, I’d be lying if I told you that at precisely 3:37 a.m. fairies emerge from the bleachers in Fauver Stadium or at 4:21 a.m. elves start dusting the bookshelves in the old stacks of Rush Rhees. However, there is certainly a modicum of activity that occurs between the hours of 3 and 6 a.m.
3 – 4 a.m.
The first decision (and, depending on how you want to look at it, mistake) that I made was to stroll around outside at 3 a.m. on a Monday morning. As I trudged slowly out of my dorm, groggy from an awkward three hours of sleep, visions of the myriad horrific instances that could befall me on my impending adventures flitted through my head — having an encounter with a sexual predator, being mugged, falling asleep standing up — you really never know.
So I headed to the area where I was 99.99 percent sure that there would be signs of human life: Gleason Library. As I walked I admired a campus that was whisperingly quiet and predictably empty. The moon was ensconced behind the clouds and cars drove by as often as they might in a forgotten rural village. The loudest noise around was the appropriately ominous sound of the leaves scratching the pavement.
Gleason easily lived up to its expectations. I arrived just as the staff from the Rush Rhees circulation desk exchanged good nights, narrowly missing the nightly migration of students to Gleason after they get booted from the library at closing time. A fair amount of people were still doing some semblance of work — some dejected and others unfittingly bubbly.
Walking outside I glanced skyward and caught a glimpse of Orion’s Belt — a sight that never fails to entertain my naturally urban disposition — and heard a train’s whistle in the distance. The few students I saw outside were either going to or coming from Gleason, and a number of them gave me shifty glances when they spotted me scribbling in a notebook, looking just a tad too untidy. It appeared to be closing time for most students with only the truly hearty (or perhaps just regrettably work-ridden) sticking behind.
I mostly felt closed out of everything. My UR ID card refused to let me enter Crosby Hall, and Todd Union, a building which I had always thought was open 24 hours a day, was locked as well. Campus, it seemed, was shutting down.
4 – 5 a.m.
At the turn of the hour I ran into freshman Jake Samples at the entrance of Susan B. Anthony Hall, who told me that he was having some caffeine on his way to study for his BIO 110 class. Needing a change from the biting cold, I headed to Hillside Market after we parted ways, where I interrupted the sole employee’s floor mopping to purchase a “Hot ‘n’ Ready” egg and cheese sandwich.
As I savored my early morning snack outside of the freshman hall, Environmental Services worker James Robinson approached the building at about 4:25 a.m. As the day was finally ending for many a student, his was just beginning. While he purchased a copy of the Democrat & Chronicle, he explained to me that he cleans and takes care of the University Health Services building. He told me that most of the employees in his position start work at 5 a.m., but others come in at 6 a.m.
This hour struck me to be very much a changing of the guards — as the last remaining students slowly filtered into their dorms, University employees slowly trickled back in.
Suddenly I spotted an anomaly in the otherwise ordinary landscape. A man stood with a suitcase, waiting for a bus at ITS. I approached.
Was he a secret agent making a delivery for the higher ups? Perhaps he was going on an impromptu trip to Ireland. Senior Zheng Wag, though, quickly informed me that he had just arrived back from a debate tournament in Vermont and was heading back to his dorm.
5 – 6 a.m.
Maybe I was feeling a little loopy at this point, but as I strolled past Library Lot I could have sworn I heard a faint smattering of music emanating from an unidentified point within. The noise dissipated before I could seek out the source though, and I was left contemplating my own sanity.
It was somewhere around this point in the morning that I began to feel comfortable with the lateness of the hour. The colorless landscape felt natural, and I began to enjoy the peace that came with the isolation.
At this point I had a gut feeling that I was going to start seeing more signs of life. It was then that I intercepted senior Constantine Korobov in front of the Georgen Athletic Center as he was returning home from his shift as a student aide.
“Don’t be a creep, now,” he shot back at me as he departed.
I was trying hard, but being creepy tends to come with the territory of questioning people on their activities so early in the morning.
I contemplated my increasing level of sketchiness as I approached another student aide, sophomore Rainya Heath, who explained to me that student aides work from 7:50 p.m. until 4:30 a.m., but don’t usually get back to their rooms until 5 a.m. Heath was on her way to start studying.
“It’s kind of like the start of a new day,” she told me.
Closer to 6 a.m., I expected to start seeing student athletes, so I wandered back to Georgen and parked myself on a bench, stakeout-style. What I found instead were ROTC students beginning their day. I even caught sight of one group who marched by in true military fashion, sans complete uniforms, but with each student carrying a rifle. I sat on my bench as I watched them do their thing in fascination.
I finally ran into my first athlete, a member of the crew team, later on. She was in a big rush since she had to walk to practice that morning instead of bike, so we regrettably didn’t have enough time to chat.
The world was waking up by this point. Garbage trucks trundled past, planes began to appear overhead, and I no longer felt as though I was the only person on campus. So I zipped up my jacket, dodged yet another suspicious look from a Security officer and headed back to bed.
Goldin is a member of the class of 2013.