By Seif Labib
I woke up to a shrill siren that drilled its way into my ears, making my ear drums vibrate and my brain resonate with a fight or flight response.
While my adrenaline was dropping down to normal levels, I fumbled with my phone as I looked for the snooze button.
One would think that I should have gotten used to this dull routine by now, but I don’t think I ever will.
By now, I’ve munched on my cereal, had my first cigarette of the day, jumped in the shower, and gotten dressed.
I went down to my car, opened the door and heard a squeak. ‘Great,’ I thought to myself. ‘As long as it runs…”
My Kia was fixed in line as I waited for the security guard at Gate 4 to ask me to kill the engine. 2 minutes later, I stop the engine, impatiently tapping on the steering wheel, as a German Shepherd sniffed across the perimeter of my gray car.
I hand the guard the daily crumpled 5 pound bill.
As expected, there are no parking spots near any entrance proximate to class; another inconvenient triviality that I refuse to accept.
Well, in retrospect there were a few half-open parking spots. Yes, half-open.
A few car owners decided that, on this forsaken Monday morning, it would be amusing to park diagonally across two parking spots. ‘Great.’
I found myself in another line at Pepsi Gate. There was no steering wheel at my disposal this time, but I was also in a nagging need to displace my frustration onto something else. Maybe smoke a cigarette?
Nope, can’t do that. ‘Great.’
After a couple of minutes, that felt like a couple of hours, I open my leather wallet in search of my white and blue AUC card.
There! Top left corner. I plaster my wallet onto the card reading machine. It beeps, but I still can’t get through.
I give out a little grunt and ask one of the standing guards ‘Can you please beep me in?’ ‘Why don’t you have your ID on you?’ he asked back, rather indignantly. I open my wallet and flash my card. He beeped me in and gave out a little grunt of his own.
Class commences in 5 minutes. 10 minutes and I will be considered absent. ‘Great.’
I walked in enormous strides against a chilly current that stung my face and the back of my hand. The clouds were a gloomy gray, dense with rains that would thunder on the New Cairo area later that night.
3 minutes left.
As I walked past the Food Court, I heard distraught shouts that were hard to ignore. A woman with brown hair, wearing a winter jacket and jeans, was shouting at the top of her lungs amid a crowd of people.
Opposite to her was a man wearing a leather jacket and dark jeans.
His face was flushed red as the woman explained to the security guard that this bloke has been following her across campus.
Ironically, this man was allowed to leave and the lady stood there in disbelief. After a moment of silence, the girl gave out a last try, with dismay, she said: ‘Are you just going to let him leave?’
Outsiders tend to lump AUCians in a stereotypical bubble.
AUCians do face harassment, among other problems. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that AUC is an undiluted bubble.
0 minutes left.
Quick is to my left and I am near my destination. I take a sharp left and now Quick is on my right and the infamous “Gucci Corner” is to my left. Straight ahead, there is yet another verbal altercation.
This squabble was over the smoking policy. A security guard had caught a student smoking a cigarette, and her boyfriend was taking a stand to this guard, asking him to address him rather than his girlfriend.
I had an urge to linger a little longer to see how this quarrel would pan out, but the drive to be counted present was infinitely stronger.
I jumped up the stairs and sprinted across the corridor towards the classroom door. I stop for a moment to catch my breath as beads of sweat started to form on my forehead.
I slowly open the door and sauntered, victoriously into the room. The professor raises his head and says ‘you’re late, Seif. I’m marking you absent.”
‘Great,’ I whispered under my breath.
Artwork by Rana Rafik.