Campus Clearout

Professor M. and David Eat
Cheeseburgers After Moving Books
June 17, 2015

We've spent from early morning into mid-afternoon moving dozens upon dozens of boxes: from campus office to truck, a short drive across town to Old Montréal, into the apartment lobby, then finally, by elevator up to second-story unit. As moves go this has been relatively efficient as 98% of what we've moved across town has been books. Those may be heavy, but they do box up neatly and stack efficiently. Pick. Carry. Place. Repeat.

The underlying reason for the big book move is something of a shame... this autumn term there will be one professor fewer who I know teaching at McGill. Professor M., the instructor of the Chinese Brushwork course I took a year ago--the one who found funding for all of us graduate students to take a field trip to visit various museums down in New York--is about to leave. He's off to greener pastures down in Rhode Island where he'll begin teaching at a different university with the new academic year.

Professor M. Places
Books into Boxes
Technically, Professor M. has already been away from Montréal for a year. He was on sabbatical in Washington, D.C., this past year. We got together there when I worked my way down the east coast over spring break. There was no hint of him jumping ship then; I suppose that at that time he himself might not have known with any certainty whether he would indeed be back in Montréal. Now, Professor M. is back in town for one final week in order to move his things down to Providence.

Helping him move was something I offered to do. Some weeks ago he sent a general e-mail announcement informing former students and colleagues of his impending departure. I responded to that offering to help with any logistics. Volunteering my time and labor has become a standard (though genunine) offer that I make whenever I hear any friend is about to move.

This practice of offering to help friends move developed out of an unlikely origin. I myself so detested having to box up and transport all of my own things each time I moved. (This was back in years when I had more material trappings of permanency and was less transient than I have been over recent years.) Those times when I did move, usually across town, I so appreciated the friends and siblings who lent their time and muscle on the occasions when I needed it. I gradually developed the perspective that the right thing to do would be to offer the same assistance whenever any friend found themselves in a similar situation.

Moving Van on McGill Campus
Fortunately, today's work was nothing more than clearing out an office. Professor M.'s new university is paying for movers to haul everything he owns down to Rhode Island. However, that offer to move all of his things across countries is valid for moving items out of only one location. In addition to everything in his apartment Professor M.'s office on campus housed (until a few hours ago) hundreds--perhaps over a thousand--books. To get them all back down the the U.S. he enlisted me and another graduate student to clear everything off campus and stash it inside his apartment before the movers come. That way, his books can cross the border along with everything else.

After we finished the move Professor M. treated me and his other graduate student to a round of burgers and fries. There are few things more satisfying than a meal of greasy junk food after a half-day of manual labor.

Good luck at your new job, Professor M.! We'll miss you in Montréal. But, given our shared interests and how perpatetic we both are I'm fairly certain our paths will cross again somewhere down the road...