And so I bid goodbye to my room with a view

Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Movin' on up: A wistful Neale McDevitt packs up his Burnside office and heads up the hill.

By Neale McDevitt

Observant readers will have noticed that the address on the Reporter masthead has changed. As of Fri., Jan. 14, the Media Relations Office, to which the Reporter belongs, will be operating out of James Administration Building as part of an effort to consolidate McGill’s diverse and scattered Public Affairs units under (almost) one roof.

And while I like to think of myself as a team player, I say “efficiency be damned!” I don’t want to leave my office.

Don’t get me wrong, this cubbyhole is nothing to write home about. It is small and cramped and my desk is in desperate need of a ruthless cull of the ever-expanding herd of free-range papers, notebooks and odds and ends that have been running amok for the past four years. And my office is in Burnside Hall – the lone Kleenex box standing on end in a row of beautiful heritage buildings.

When I say I don’t want to leave my office, I really mean that I don’t want to leave my window.

I’m on the ground floor overlooking lower campus, arguably the finest view at McGill. Yes, there are people who enjoy stunning vistas of the campus with Mount Royal as the backdrop, but they are too far removed from the action for my liking.

I have the best seat in the house, front row to everything from Quidditch games to Convocation to the cannons of Remembrance Day. Every year I watch the campus undergo its regular transformations as the somnolence of summer is jumpstarted by the freneticism of Frosh, and as winter’s white canopy gives way to the splendour that is spring.

I’ve called “pass interference!” in my head while watching touch football, craned my neck at a fire truck hurtling up the road and pleased my belly by sneaking sun-ripened cherry tomatoes from the Edible Campus garden that frames my view each fall with vines and flowers.

Of course, nothing is perfect. My windows are tinted and when the afternoon sun hits them just right, they ostensibly become a two-way mirror with me looking out but no one able to look in. Oblivious women apply make-up a mere four feet from my face and, a few years back, an elderly fitness enthusiast decked out in her finest lycra regularly did entire aerobics routines seemingly for my benefit only. And don’t get me started about the middle-aged guy who doffed his shirt and used my window to inspect his body’s moles…

The campus, though an oasis in the middle of the city’s concrete and glass downtown core, is constantly in motion. I’ve watched earnest protesters march up toward the Arts Building and listened as stoic bagpipers lead Convocation parties back down. I’ve seen tightrope walkers practice their craft on a line strung taught between two trees and any number of highlight reel plays involving Frisbees and soccer balls.

But it is also a place of quiet, as witnessed by the crowd of sunbathers lolling about at McGill Beach on a hot September day, a small group of Muslims praying beneath a tree or a lone staffer finishing a book at lunch stretched out on the lawn, discarded shoes and socks beside him.

When we think of McGill, we usually picture classrooms, libraries and labs, but the physical campus is decidedly more than all that. It is a community, a meeting place, a sanctuary, a shortcut and a place of play, repose and reflection. From my vantage point for the past four years, I have had the good fortune of watching McGill happen and I will miss that greatly.

Neale McDevitt is the editor of the McGill Reporter.

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Category: Point of View

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