Oberlin Revisited.

I’ve told my kids on many occasions, in any situation – Even a job interview or car purchase, sometimes all there is left is entertainment value. So you may as well have fun with the situation.

It’s an attitude like that – My attitude, that gets me into trouble in places with funny people to watch such as found in Oberlin. We went up there to see a recital and collect the kid for spring break. And my constant ear-to-ear grin when I walked around, and my play-by-play commentary, almost got me into trouble. Not that I’d care.

If you want to read the first trip, it’s here.  I won’t cover much of that. Maybe only what’s changed.

First – the flight. American, as usual. And, in a complete bizarro world surprise, the flights to and from left more or less on time, and arrived early. Almost unheard of for me and Cleveland flights. And in a super display of logic, reason, and customer service, American ditched the rainbow colors of caste and privilege on boarding and replaced it with a simple group system. I found this out when I checked in and was assigned group 5. An insult, and in violation of my AA card, and AAdvantage status. When I asked, They explained the system. This was actually priority. They simply took the all the other levels and assigned them 1-4. It seemed to work, as there was a lesser amount of hovering pre-flight.

The rental car was nothing to crow about. A Malibu. A disappointment in that it broke the spell of cool cars I was getting this year so far.

The fun part about this story is the Hotel. The old Oberlin Inn was a 5 star dump. After my last trip, I’d have preferred a Motel 6 in a neighboring town. But gone is the Oberlin Inn, and in it’s place a new shiny “Inn at Oberlin”. Actually owned by the college.

Oberlin Inn is a paragon of lefty environmental thinking, and weirdness. First off – Nice place. Cool bar. Nice rooms. Very European. My son had checked in ahead and found (while having a sense of urgency) that the toilet lights didn’t work. Turns out, you need to insert your card for power. But from what I could tell, it was only to the bathroom. I get it. It’s to save electricity. Most hotels would have installed a (probably cheaper) motion sensor switch. I’m sure there’s a reason.

The new Inn at Oberlin. Very nice.

Another thing I got a huge kick out of is the light – and I think it’s a light, not an LED, telling you when it’s OK to open a window. So, some background – the hotel appears to have a geothermal climate system. Seemed to work OK, but then again it was winter. Near as I can figure, it’s in the ceiling, since the carpeted floors didn’t feel warm, and there was no radiator I could see.

I think panel is the heat. All the fans were in weird spots.

What tickled my funny bone was – When was the last time you opened a window in a Hotel? Far as I can remember, I never have. So I had to try it out. The only window that opened was a maybe 18″ window deep behind the curtains. Curtains, which I found, don’t roll back all the way to the window. And, it was like 25 degrees out. Do you really need an idiot light to tell you to keep the window shut?

Another environmentally wonderful feature was the sink and shower. Very stylish.

My faucet – at full blast. Both rooms did this.

However,  the sink had the water pressure of a drip coffee maker. You know, it takes a certain amount of water to clean shaving cream from your face. So, I’m not sure how much water was saved there.

And showers are one of the things that are great about the Marriotts I usually stay – Unlimited hot water, under pressure. The steam wakes you up. Not so here. No matter how I tried to adjust the shower, it felt like I was getting piddled on.

I wasn’t aware Ohio had water issues.

But just like last time, the most fun part of the trip has to be people watching, which took very little effort. This started day one when we went to get some breakfast.

Seated next to us was a gaggle of 50-60 something professors (I’m guessing). The one woman in the group – a very earnest hippy type was by far the loudest and most intense. And her lamentations ranged all over the planet, but mostly within the confines of politics and the academic world. Her whole demeanor was like a female Winston Smith organizing resistance against big brother.

She had a term she used for herself, which I can’t quite remember. Something like an “academic without assignment”. I remember thinking that we used to call these types visiting professors. I gathered she taught two classes a week.

Listening to the conversation (they were literally at arms length), I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear, and muttering commentary to my son. If it were any other town, I’d have probably joined into the conversation. So, in the absence of doing my knuckles on the table response to such a conversation, I’ll cover her issues here, in no particular order:

  1. Students should be able to see the professors for classes they want. I’m with you here. That’s called truth in advertising. You may not like it, but I think the site rating them is useful too.
  2. Your life as a nomad academic is miserable because the academic world is one of the last remaining medieval guilds. Good professors are hard to cultivate, old professors are ensconced. ’tis a racket. Few organizations work that way, and it’s part of the reason my kid’s tuition is an eye-popping number. But in the immortal words of Hyman Roth – “This is the business we’ve chosen”. Suck it up. It’ll collapse long before it’s reformed.
  3. Stop looking for liberal democrat heroes. The ones you like, and mentioned ad nausem,  are all old and your bench is real narrow. You are going to have to cultivate younger, better ones. And to the extent you don’t like what the local and state guys are saying, remember two things: One – who was elected president, who voted for him and why. And Two – a politician’s top priorities are getting elected and re-elected. Whatever is third is far behind. (h/t Thomas Sowell). You’re pretty doomed for now.
  4. The venom you use to denounce some other professor is really off-putting. When you call him “a probable Trump voter” as an epithet, remember – an epithet is an epithet and is demeaning. To my middle of the road ears, it sounds equivalent to “jew” or “fag”. It’s your intent that makes it insulting.
  5. It’s a big, big country, with many types of people. Your problem wasn’t “messaging to a target audience”. Your “target audience” understands all too well what you are about. It’s why you lost.
What was funny is that hours later when we went to lunch at a different place – there they were – the breakfast club. I grinned ear-to-ear at the woman who had a look like I just stepped on her dog. I was dying to holler out “Jesus! do you all do anything like work around here?”
That kind of weird intensity was all around. I was walking out of a building as three students were walking in. I don’t guess they didn’t like my look. One put on a sneer, the other two looked down. You know, in every area I visit, (And actually had happen in Cleveland this trip), you meet eyes in a doorway like that, say “Hi” and smile the other person does it back. My advice here is, if you shave parts of your head, have the rest of your hair look like it was cut with pinking shears, and dye it weird, people are going to look. Some of them will grin. It’s why you did it, right?
Listen, I get it. I’m a Gen-X person. That look isn’t new. But it was generally worn on:
  1. People who made it look good, and didn’t care what anyone, least of all a 50 something dude thought about them.
  2. Mostly rock stars and musicians that were crazy talented (boy george, an exception)
  3. And thus, they held their heads high and proud when meeting people. At least the ones I knew.
The last night we were there, we were at the hotel bar and a couple next to us were having a serious, intense, meaningful conversation about whether or not to try the roasted garlic that came with their appetizer. I nearly leaned over and said “TRYTHEFUCKINGGARLICFORCHRISSAKES! Someone went to the trouble of making it. It’s mild. You’ll like it!”
My wife sized up these two and said “Can we move to a seat? I can’t take this anymore.” My son had his fill the day before. His mood becoming sullen and dark, he lammed out to the airport a day earlier than us. Don’t blame him. Unlike most campuses in the US, this is no place for a single, fit, monied dude.
We had a day to kill (to lower the flight cost), and having enough of pompus weirdness and intensity, we hit what is termed “the arts district” in Cleveland. Seemed like any other city in the midwest. Dropped a few sheckles to look at a car museum.
A ferrari california in the museum.
A pair of stainless steel Fords. Very cool.

Back when I was a consultant, I flew to Dallas quite a bit and made some good friends. One of them, A VP at our customer was in the HQ office one day. Seeing him I went over to say hello.

He looks around, like a bookie on the street looking for cops, and says “I hate this place. I don’t feel right until the wheels touch down at DFW”

Once on the plane, as it was taxiing for takeoff I told my wife that story, and said I’ve come to understand it entirely, especially after visiting Oberlin.