Recently I have begun, or rather, attempted to begin, research for my dissertation (I won’t bore you with the title) only to discover that it is a task worthy of Sisyphus. But surely, you say, it can’t be that bad – it’s just a lot of reading and note taking. And you would be correct, but that isn’t the hard part. The day begins at the library which, despite being one of the largest academic libraries in the country with over six million books on offer, invariably only ever contains one copy of the book which you are looking for and it is always out on permanent loan to somebody else, a sort of 12-month loan which I cannot even begin to fathom how to gain permission for. The sort of loan where that person really ought to just buy the damn book. But that’s OK you think to yourself, so none of these remaining five million books are of any use to me, I can get on the Internet and go check out some articles, there’s no limit on the number of people that can use them.
Not so fast. In order to get on the Internet in the first place, you need a computer. Which means standing in a queue which would make a Soviet frown, all the while becoming more and more frustrated because you can see most of the people on the computers are just on Facebook or else working on something much less important than what you need to do.
Yet fortunately you have prepared for this eventuality, and have come armed with your own laptop – now you have no need to stand and wait an eternity for the cluster computers that don’t actually work anyway. All you have to do is plug in your laptop and you’re good to go, something so simple yet equally impossible. Plug sockets, which are so simple to put in you could do it yourself and which cost the university effectively nothing, are like gold dust around campus. At least in the library, one would think an ideal ratio of students to plug sockets, if not 1:1, would be at least 2:1 or 3:1 as many people have their own laptops they like to use. Now, I haven’t done an exact survey, but my experience seems to suggest that the actual ratio is somewhere in the region of a billion to one. You would stand a better chance of rubbing your feet on the carpet and trying to power your laptop through static electricity than trying to find a free plug socket anywhere on campus.
So you leave the library, you spend an hour or two searching high and low across the university for a place to study; maybe, in desperation, you even head over to North Campus and the Joule library, but you may as well have gone to Lapland for all the good it will have done you. By this point it’s time to stop for lunch and you’re so demoralised you end up in the pub for the rest of the day. Again.
The moral of this story is to stay at home. Study in your room, kitchen, linen cupboard or wherever you can find space in your house. Because you can be damn sure you won’t find any on campus.
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