Under the cover of darkness

By Вen Li

Long after the evening BCEM lab clears out and the fruit flies are put away, long after the die-hard jock puts down his weights, fairies come out and play as fantasy becomes reality.

Well, not really. The fairies are actually the facilities staff who magically tidy the campus, and the only fantasies to be had are of the Den-induced alcoholic variety. Still, many strange and wonderful things happen once most of the campus population leaves for the day.

Every building bustles with activity into the wee hours of the night. Actors rehearse, musicians practice, grad students do whatever it is grad students do, and management and biology students study in harmony.

We started last Tuesday by penetrating the darkness at Kananaskis Hall. For the most part it was a quiet night with a handful of students watching TV at the central room on each floor. As they described it, Tuesdays and Wednesdays made up the weekend break, if you will, from the other five days of partying.

“During the week, there’s drinking, drinking and more drinking,” said Scott Harron of the typical late-night activities in rez. “We do cabs on Friday nights, go down to the Den, and spend Mondays at the Fox and Firkin.”

We were also told of an erotic mud-wrestling pit, but it was nowhere to be found. In the floor below, a Halloween party of sorts–featuring a B horror movie, burnt popcorn and streamers–managed to form out of the mess of bodies, clothes, and other stuff that is rez.

Meanwhile in the art wing, primordial rehearsals for the Drama Department’s mainstage play, opening Nov. 27, wrapped up for the night. Of the 40 or so people involved, three hearty souls remained until 10:30 p.m., only to clear out by 11 p.m. It will get more intense as opening night approaches, they say. Earlier in the month, three or four rehearsals ran concurrently, bringing basement practice studios to life.

Elsewhere in Art, isolated musicians inhabited practice rooms– we found at least one diehard in Masters of Music in piano performance student Cody Obst. In his first year of the program, his motivation for burning the midnight oil is the music.

“For me, it’s the love of music, the joy of learning, and practising,” he said sitting in front of a baby grand piano. “I’m here almost every night practising, sometimes until everyone else is gone. When you feel inspired, you have to keep practising.”

For others, however, staying late is less a choice, and more a requirement. In the third floor of the Education block, students keep vigil in the study rooms–packed by day, and deserted by night–studying for morning exams and waiting for rides home; transit service to the university ends around the bewitching hour.

Just before midnight, facilities staff emerge in full regalia to perform the dance of the sugarplum floor-buffing machines. Watching over the nightly ritual and few remaining students–a few usually stay late for multiplayer StarCraft or to work on more academic pursuits in the syndicate rooms–is Com-issionaire Bob.

“When I first come on shift at 11 p.m., it was dark. The lights are on a 12-hour timer,” said Bob. “When one of the caretakers turns on the lights, I tour the floors to see who is here.”

During his tours, Bob sometimes helps out by disposing of the day’s refuse left behind by students.

“The students are pigs. Look at this shit, do they live like that at home? Most nights every table has junk on it.”

Also cleaning up around this time are the good people at the Den and the Cove, both of which closed at midnight on Tuesday. Outside, a confrontation ensued between a group of youths and Campus Security-who were too busy to speak to us later that night-over alleged improper use of bodily fluids.

Safewalkers Peter Maitland and Erica Strange had a less interesting evening, with only three or four requests for walks since 9 p.m. The two had different reasons for volunteering, other than to help people.

“I’d much rather be up during the night. It’s much quieter around campus,” said Maitland sipping a slush.

“I do it to meet people. Night people are a little bit different, there are more stories,” added Strange.

Both Safewalkers noted that the campus can be a strange place at night. Aside from people asking for multiple condoms–“‘doms” as they are affectionately known–there are stories about the Canadian National Institute for the Blind dog, located by the info desk in MacEwan Student Centre.

“We’re never supposed to touch the dog because it has had a lot of bad stuff done to it. People have peed on it, yelled at it, kissed it and molested it,” said Maitland.

While we don’t know if engineers have as much fun as the dog at their all-night pool tournies, they do have interesting stories of their own.

“One night, a bunch of guys had a cross-country mountain bike race from civil engineering to chemical engineering. One guy bruised his testicles,” said PhD student Rob Radovanovic as he sipped the nectar of his prized cappuccino machine. “Security doesn’t really come by at night. We’re pretty tame except during engineering week.”

Radovanovic has become a fan of all-nighters–often including a run to Chicken On The Way–especially since he and a comrade discovered showers in the basement.

“It gets easier and easier to stay here later; sleeping here doesn’t bother me anymore,” he said of the couch in his personal office. “And you find more time for strange people asking questions.”

We ourselves were asked to locate an exit, by a group of lost students while in engineering.

Students who are not fortunate enough to have an office usually end up at the Info Commons.

“We start with about 200 people at 11 p.m. and end up with 30 or 40 by 6 a.m.,” said technician and navigator John Hoefman. “At 7 a.m., it starts building up again.”

Hoefman and a few of his compatriots spend five nights a week from midnight to 8 a.m. maintaining the computers.

“We check all the plugs and ‘ghost’ the machines to clear all the stuff students install,” said Hoefman. “This week, we’re also preparing the computers for new colour printers on Nov. 1.”

So, even though you may not be here late nights to use them, the casually-dressed homeless man we encountered probably will be.


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