There really is something to be said for Olin's small size and the sense of community it encourages. I know I've said this before, but it becomes increasingly apparent to me as the calendar pages turn. I can say that I know a good portion of my class -- honest-to-goodness know them. Countless hours of sleep have been shoved to the curb because I lose track of time just talking with people. They all have stories to tell, thoughts to share (or sell, depending on the person), and the stupidest jokes I have ever heard (Two fish are in a tank. One looks to the other and says, "How do we drive this thing?" or something along the lines of, "Your mom! Your face! Your mom's face!"). I can wander out of my room at any given time and find somebody with whom I can go explore, build a coilgun, eat cereal, wrestle, or just shoot the breeze. But they can also wander up (or down) to my room.
Over the past few months, I have come to know these visitors so well that I can pick them out by their knocks. I hear a "knock, knock" and don't feel compelled to ask "Who's there?" Yes, indeed, everybody has a distinct style. For example:
- Tim knocks softly, distractedly. We have to scream at him to come in, because he rarely hears the first time.
- Tara raps sharply, with little hands, and opens the door immediately upon -- but not an instant before -- hearing a welcome. She will wait patiently, never knocking a second time.
- Jon's knock is lethargic, almost filled with dread. He usually comes by when it's time to do calculus or physics problem sets.
- Liz is more of a newcomer to our room, but I would characterize her knock as "quintessential." It's a classic three- to four-beat tap.
- Luke and Nathaniel may pound on the door once or twice, and we hear panicked footsteps or indiscriminate scuffling just after. They're often searching for a hiding place during a multi-floor pursuit.
- Michael pretends he hears us say "come in" and just walks right through the threshold. The knock and the turning of the door handle are simultaneous.
The incredible thing is that I look forward to each of these knocks, these promises of fun (or problem sets). Surprisingly (at least surprisingly to me), there are all sorts of personalities floating around here. It's important to get to know them, the people with whom I live and work. Admittedly, things can get tense in such a small space, but coming from a small school and relatively small town, the adjustment to the size was not too difficult. I welcomed the tight-knit, close-quarters feel.
Of course, this is not ideal for everybody, and even I sometimes need to get away, out of the "Olin Bubble". Fortunately, this is fairly easy to do (I'll probably write more about this later). A short trip into Boston, an errand in Needham, even a walk in Parcel B usually provides enough space to take a breath and to clear an Oliner's head. All in all, on a day-to-day basis, I'm happy to hear the knock at the door, whether it's a quick tap, a barely audible blow, or a steady pounding. No matter who it is, I know that they understand my frustration with ModCon. They understand that I am likely running on four hours of sleep. They understand my excitement upon receiving a package from home. There is a strong thread running through all of them; a common facet is carved into every member of the community. Yet, they all have a unique contribution, their own knock at the door.