Fear and Loathing at the University of San Francisco

Paul Lowinger

The University of San Francisco is a peaceable island, an urban campus in a sometimes angry city. It is a private university on a windy landscaped hill with cheerful students who are as diverse as Affirmative Action, their youth and the $30,000 tuition allows. Even more cloistered is the library where newly built shelves await the arrival of the new books.

I was in the stacks as I took a book on the Evil Eye from the shelf. I needed to know about the Evil Eye immediately so I walked quick time to the end of the row of book shelves where I saw an empty desk and I plopped into the chair.

The book I brought to the desk was not yet open when I was aware that I was facing a student at a desk which was joined to mine. Our desks were Siamese twins, mirror images with an eight inch barrier between the m. The white shirted twenty something student spoke, "I wonder why we have to sit so close." It was not a question or a demand but a whine.

The battle of the desks had begun. I made no reply although I probably said, "Huh." He was a kook. I felt irritation and sat stiffly and stared at the pages of my book. I didn't need to look to see his tension and maybe more. I was going to read my book and have my own controlling moment. We avoided eye contact but even without a glance, I saw a grimace. It was a game of chicken, a contest of furtive stares. I won as soon as he moved to another empty desk down the line in maybe five minutes. Soon afterward, he left the room.

Should I look for a special Greek word for the phobia of being too close to a stranger who looks like the mature Einstein?

I had found anger and fear on the manicured campus where a St. Francis statue communes with the birds.