Friday, January 18, 2013

An Interesting Thing Happened On The Way Home

"Most of us have only two or three genuinely interesting moments in our lives; the rest is filler." - Doug Coupland

"I swear, you have the most interesting life!" - Amy Sue Nogar

"It is better to be a dog in a peaceful time than be a man in a chaotic period." - Chinese proverb


Now that was interesting.

Those who know me, including you who follow my blog, know I've been going through quite a chaotic period.  We had our accreditation visit this week, and though I promise I have more interesting (there's that nasty word again) stuff to say about it, I'll just once again say this: perfect!  Zero findings.  Yay.  Bazinga, even. 

As if that weren't enough, we had a graduation ceremony too.  Now, I'm a Dean, but you knew that, right?  You may not have known that one of a Dean's most important events each year/semester/whatever is commencement.  I know, there's a lot of hoopla and ceremonialisticism that happens there, but if you listen closely you'll notice that the crux of the action is when the Dean, as the chief representative of the faculty of the college, recommends the graduates to the President/Provost/whoever, the chief person who technically is the person empowered by the board of the institution to actually grant degrees and diplomas.

Basically, the most important moment to the Dean is when he gets to say words to the effect of "We're done with them.  For better or for worse, they passed every test we could throw, and so it's our pleasure to now recommend them for release upon the greater society out there.  I hope you approve.  Now let's go have a drinky-winky."

And it happened as planned tonight, at least at first.  Basically, it was as good a ceremony as it gets, with right at half of the graduates actually showing up on time in the right place with all their clothes on.  No, I'm really not kidding.  We actually ended up with all graduates (save one who never showed up) lined up properly with ten minutes to go before showtime.

That.  Never.  Happens.

No, I'm serious.  Really, really serious.  Never, ever, do you get a group of celebrating graduates, none of whom really owe you the time of day anymore, to be in the right place at the right time in the right mood in the right attire.  It scared me, to tell the truth.

The rest of the ceremony went--well, okay.  As okay as can be expected, anyway.  I mean, yeah, the team does this particular ceremony once per year (and twice per year going forward), but twelve months is a long time to remember everything, which is why I wrote scripts long, long ago.  Even with scripts, though, little points of chaos can happen.  They do happen.  They did happen.  One of the faculty ushers did exactly what I told her to do, which in this case happened to be wrong.  She figured it out quickly and righted the ship. The Valedictorian, a student I really didn't hold out much hope for on the presentation scale, gave a downright commendable speech, while the student who just had to read a couple of pages forgot her glasses and flubbed a few lines.  And when it came time to recess (a fancy term for getting the heck outta there), the President, who leads both directions, apparently forgot, bringing about a confused couple of seconds that only ended after I, in stage voice, said, "This is us." 

All in all, it was a mildly chaotic (as usual) but very successful event, right up till we got out of the room.  Then, all hell broke loose.

The fire alarm went off.

Now, I'm normally the cause of the fire alarm going off.  It's part of what I do, as a Security Specialist (aka Dean).  Every so often, according to a frequency set by the local fire code, I'm the one who makes sure the appropriate agencies are notified (so that fire trucks don't come rushing to our aid) and then pulls the lever to force students and instructors out into the cold.

Actually, it's kinda fun, but don't tell my students or instructors.

At a previous campus, we had to do these things more often, and so I used to get requests from others to pull the alarm handle.  It was such a common request, in fact, that I thought about auctioning off the right to pull the fire alarm when the time came.

Anyway, there are a lot of very technical things that happen at a school when a fire alarm is sounded.  People grab certain things and evacuate, but that's just the start.  Administrators are also tasked with certain routes to make sure people are evacuating, and a reporting sequence is planned and initiated as the event unfolds.  At a school, a fire alarm is a big, choreographed, deal.

At a Convention Center, with 600 people and an MP3 of Pomp and Circumstance blaring at 120dB, it's not nearly as choreographed.

It took me a couple of minutes, in fact, to even interpret the *mumble mumble murph murph* of the PA system combined with the little flashes of light I saw as a fire alarm.  Remember, we had the music going.  People were cheering.  People were talking.  It was chaotic, as the end of commencement ceremonies always are.  It was so chaotic, in fact, that at first all I noticed was the announcements that sounded like the Peanut's gang's parents speaking.

Have you ever been to a commencement ceremony?  Remember the end?  Nobody ever wants to leave; all the students and their families are trying to find and get pictures with all their faculty members.  It's a chaotic whirlwind soup of people. Add to that a fire alarm, and--yeah.  Interesting, indeed. 

The good news is that eventually we did realize what was going on, and the security team did manage to break up the whirlwind soup and send them out.  Our event technical manager was on site fairly quickly, helping to direct everyone out.  Once again, I was impressed with the GRCC.

But boy, was it interesting.


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