I have been given* a special list, on which I need to collect signatures and stamps from various people, some of whom I have never met before. In theory, the purpose of this is to confirm that I have paid all my fees, returned all books to the library, etc. In reality most of the people whose signatures I need don't even ask what my name is and the whole thing seems rather pointless, but I guess it must be traditional or something.
One of the items on the list was "Dormitory". Presumably, I needed the signature of whoever is in charge of the dorms, whoever that was and wherever they could be found. I asked a friend who lives in a dorm about it and he advised me to try looking for the dorm administration at the Hall of Residence no.1. I had been to most of the Polytechnic's halls of residence at some point before, but I had never paid much attention to their numbers. No.1 turned out to be one of the few that I had never even seen before. Eventually.
My friend had given me some directions, but they turned out to have been less accurate than they seemed. It took me about an hour yesterday to find the right building, another couple of minutes to enter it and find the right room. At which point it turned out that there was noone there. A receptionist finally agreed to tell me when I could expect to find someone in there and today I went there again. I remembered the way and getting in was a little easier this time.
I knocked on the door so that noone could tell me I hadn't knocked and pushed it open without waiting before anyone could tell me not to. Years of experience had taught me that this was the only way of entering most offices around here that occasionally works. I walked up to the nearest desk and showed my list to the woman sitting there. She asked me which dorm I had lived in most recently. For the first time in this silly game someone asked me a question. Was she going to make this difficult for me? There was a deadline. In less than an hour. And there was still one other confusing item on the list.
"I haven't lived in any of your dorms," I said "That's not a problem, is it?"
Please, don't let it be, I thought.
She then informed me I didn't need her stamp if I hadn't lived in a dorm. Of course, I had to come all the way here to find that out. Twice.
The last, and most cryptic, item on the list was "Department /diploma/". After a couple of weeks of trying to figure it out myself, I gave up and decided to ask the lady at the Dean's Office what it meant. It turned out I needed Dr L.'s signature there, as well as a stamp from a grumpy secretary who works at the other end of the campus.
The secretary was in her office and also in a bad mood. She told me that I needed the signature and the stamp in that order and not to bother her until I've got the signature. Luckily Dr L. was relatively easy to find and the secretary was still there when I returned.
By the time I returned to the Dean's Office, the queue had grown considerably longer and slower, as it always does when I only need to hand something in and would like to do it quickly, but otherwise there were no more problems. Then I took a last walk around the main building. Who knows when I'll get the chance to do it again? I wandered through the maze of corridors and hidden staircases. I looked at some notice boards. Rock concerts and rooms for rent, language courses and martial arts classes, lost objects, found objects and things for sale... You could find anything there if you knew what you were looking for! I didn't, but you never know what you can find when you don't know what you're looking for. On my way out, I stopped at a cafeteria and bought a cup of coffee. It was just as bad as it had been back in my first year, but somehow it just seemed appropriate.
As I walked back to the SKM station, for once I wasn't expecting the worst. The Gdańsk Polytechnic is a decent school of science and a tough school of life.** Afterwards, it seemed, anything life had in store for me would have to be as easy as... let's be realistic, a differential equation. Partial. One of the really annoying ones involving integrals that just won't budge, no matter what you do. Actually, it won't be easy at all, but with any luck I will have some idea what to do with it.
* i.e. had to find it on the school website and print it for myself.
** This much is common knowledge. During my defence exam last week, I overheard some of the professors, including the Dean*** debating about whether or not the latter is intentional.
*** Yep. Apparently he doesn't know either.