OU Nights

We stood staring at the dirty brown water that was seeping up through the pavement. It was unusually warm for midnight in early October. I was talking with two West Green residents when she bolted passed me. I started after her, but she ran faster than I had expected she could. She slowed down just enough for me to catch up.

“I only run for ambulances,” she said before speeding up again.

I followed her over a bridge and down a flight of stairs to a small back parking lot. She stopped and waited. Once she saw the flashing red and blue lights get closer, we were off again. We rounded a corner and up another flight of stairs leading to a side door of Wilson Hall. She pulled out her keys, opened the door and waited.
Her breathing was suddenly normal, as if she hadn’t been running at all. The dim stairwell light reflected off her shoulder-length red hair and pale skin. Jackie, barely over five feet tall, is unthreatening and not your average picture of a Security Aide. Her oversized khaki-uniform shirt made her appear larger. It made her look like the conductor of a safari, too.

She was composed as she told me that nights usually are not this hectic. And Jackie should know. She’s been a Security Aide for Ohio University’s Residence Life Department for five quarters. She chose OU because, at that time, it was closer to home.

Though she lived in West Lafayette, Ohio during her high school years, Jackie lived in places throughout Indiana, Tennessee and Ohio while she was growing up, following her father from job to job.

During her youth she spent little time in one place, and it appeared that she found comfort and purpose in moving. To avoid idleness, we walked the perimeter of West Green, checking parking lots, parking garages and laundry rooms. But there simply was nothing to do. For that night, the most the SA’s had to grapple with was boredom.

Jackie spoke, almost reminiscently, of more interesting nights. The last weekend of spring quarter, she told me with great enthusiasm, was awful. Treudley Hall’s fire alarm went off sporadically throughout the night. She had stayed and helped keep things under control until 5 a.m. The following night it took her an hour to record names and social security numbers of underage drinkers at a party. It took her another hour-and-a half to file paper work.

But on nights like this, the SA’s find ways to amuse themselves. Outside in the middle of the green, in a place they call “the bricks,” all five SA’s on duty were people watching. One of them pulled out her cell phone. She instructed everyone to listen up; she had something to play for them. She turned on a ring tone, the Cops theme song.

Now, standing at the door waiting for Ohio University Police Department to arrive, it was obvious that tonight was turning out differently. However, Jackie and her partner lacked back-up. They were the lone SA’s on duty.

Minutes later an OUPD officer showed up and sprinted inside. Then another. The second stopped and asked Jackie which room. She didn’t know. The officer grimaced and hustled up the stairs. She really didn’t know. Someone called and instructed her to open the door at Wilson Hall. That was all. She turned to me, unshaken. Someone on the second floor had alcohol poisoning.

She noticed my concerned look and reassured me that it’s better to be called to the scene than to find a problem yourself. “I used to get shaken up by these kinds of calls,” she said. “But you get used to it.”

OUPD radioed Jackie a lot. As the senior SA on West Green, she is responsible for everyone else on duty. This was the second time she was called for help that night.

I was following her through her rounds in Boyd Hall. It was the fourth building on her rounds that night. Four remained.
We already walked through the Convocation Center. Somewhere along the circular hallway, a peculiar odor lingered. Her senior staff official looked at Jackie and in a sing-songy voice asked, “Do you smell what I smell?” Jackie did, so she walked from door to door, sniffing to see which one it could be. She knocked. No answer. After knocking a few more times, we left, determining the pot smoking had occurred earlier that evening.

Jackie confidently walked passed nervous residents, giving reassuring smiles back to them. She diligently checked each stairwell, each lobby and any unmarked room for anything suspicious. That is, the type of suspicious activity that has earned OU a top five position on Princeton Review’s list of party schools. Actually, it is the aftermath of these events, someone passed out from having one (two, three or four) too many or vomit in a hallway, that SA’s usually find. She often shined her small purple flashlight into dark corners and closets. Places, apparently, that sometimes harbor someone who just couldn’t seem to find their room.

Boyd had half as much excitement. We had stopped on the third floor to talk to one of Jackie’s friends, a Resident Assistant, a woman who wore a bandana and had a fetish for posters of “scruffy guys” that covered her walls and door. Jackie scanned the pictures but displayed little interest in talking about guys, except for one, that is.

Her boyfriend was miles away in Los Angeles. She met Carlos after high school when she traveled to Mexico the first time. Through her father’s girlfriend, she made arrangements to stay and study Spanish with a missionary couple in Oaxaca. “He is the woman’s cousin and he lived right next to them,” Jackie said, smiling.

Before she can join him in LA, she has a year in Athens to finish her double major in psychology and Spanish. Working for a corporation would be nice, she said. But working with criminal psychology would be my next option. She spoke softly. Her self-proclaimed shyness poked through sometimes, but she forced herself to speak authoritatively.

A scratchy voice through the radio interrupted our banter. “Ninety, meet senior staff in front of Treudley.” Without hesitation, Jackie sprinted down three flights of stairs. We stepped out onto the pavement, which was now a river and heard the rushing sounds of rapids. There isn’t a river on West Green. But a water main broke and was flooding the entire walkway, rushing down the stairs into the parking garage and filling the laundry room beneath Treudly Hall. Jackie smirked. “This is a first for me”, she said.

She calmly walked over to an island of grass where her senior official was standing, laughing. After studying the situation for a moment, Jackie pulled a small piece of white paper from her pocket. She began reading code names and their meanings aloud. “No”, she said. “There isn’t a radio code for this; there’s one for drowning. Maybe we could consider this a potential drowning.”

In a way, she did. After all, two feet of water is a major hazard to children and drunk people. Several of the latter were standing, staring into the water inebriated and mesmerized. Jackie asked her fellow SA to stand around the water and assure that no one harmed themselves.

Almost an hour after the main broke, the clean-up crews arrived. Jackie’s demeanor changed. She became restless and giddy. She and her partner discussed resuming their building checks and hiking to Bromley Hall uptown. Nothing more could be done at the accidental river, and it was time to move on. The commotion had ended, until next weekend.

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