From the quiet of the handicapped stall of the men’s restroom in the Smith Center basement, you can hear voices through the wall, clear as your skin. In lieu of an in-stall internet cafe or reading library, the voices both baffle and entertain, serving as a mysterious, talking toilet book. Once you’ve done your duty, and you’ve finished listening in, please, seek out the authors of said book.
When you leave the restroom, turn right, take a few steps, look through the pane of glass, behind the seven-layered candy rack, under the white fluorescent light: there they are. They’re employees in a shoe-return shack! The mystery is solved. There’s a little bowling alley down in the Smith basement, pool tables, a video-game gallery, air hockey, pinball, foosball, and bad music with plenty of volume – it’s the Viking Bowl and Billiards and game room.
The average 28-and-a-half-year-old PSU student doesn’t find much of a dorm life on campus, and lives, instead, a real life. With a job or two or three, possibly a kid (or two or three) and various other concerns, Portland State is the perfect non-community college for the busy student to pursue a bachelor’s or a master’s in whatever. With so many other concerns, however, if you don’t live here, you may forget that you even go here. And thus, going to PSU can feel just like going to a community college. You eat, go to class, eat, go to work, go home, eat, sleep, and so on.
But you can “take a class” almost anywhere. Going to a university should involve more than that. And you don’t want to pay $980.50 per quarter to feel like you’re still going to PCC. The solution: get a (second or third or fourth) job here, join a group here, or, at the least, take advantage of the facilities, services, and whatnot that PSU offers.
Like the Viking Bowl and Billiards. During its remodeling, the Smith Center’s basement hallway may look like a cancer-hazard construction zone, but fear not. The asbestos in the ceiling was removed over the summer, and only the lungs of the Vanguard summer staff were irreparably scarred.
Which brings us to campus jobs. For the media studies major, or pretty much anyone else, the Smith Center’s sub-basement is one doorway drop-box after another of possible future employment. With the Vanguard, The Rearguard, The Portland Spectator, Portland Review, and KPSU all calling the same hallway home, you can apply to all five in one trip. With the media center’s hard-to-find subterranean location and employees graduating every quarter, there are always positions available, and there’s never too much competition. Only the genuinely interested apply, and most of them do find a spot. Let this be you.
Once you’re hired, even if you didn’t get the spot you wanted, you will eventually. In search of the multi-faceted media experience, the Vanguard staff, for instance, change spots often, and seniority pays off quickly.
Just as a somewhat inordinate love for Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade, and everything he mentions, can lead one to other new favorite bands – like Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes, Destroyer, Swan Lake, and Xiu Xiu, which lead to others, like The New Pornographers, A.C. Newman, Neko Case, The Unicorns, Islands, and so on – so can one job or group lead to other jobs, groups, or opportunities. If you start at the Vanguard as a writer, you just might become a copy editor too. Soon, you may be chief copy editor. Then, you might join the unofficial Vanguard flag-football team, after a strong showing in the sand at the editors beach retreat convinces some that you’ll be an asset to Team Mantooth.
At PSU, no one does everything, but everyone should do something. And you are paying for these opportunities. Unless you receive a Pell Grant, Oregon Opportunity Grant, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant, and OUS Supplemental Tuition Grant, in which case you pay almost nothing into PSU, and this is all tasty gravy. But somewhere, someone’s paying for it, and no one wants to pay for nothing.
In the Northeast somewhere is a church sign that says, “Make friends with the Creator of heaven and get in free.” Apply this first-century concept to your own life in the 21st. Use what you learned in the restroom to chat up and make friends with the bowl and billiards staff, in the spirit of fun and friendliness. They may not be the Creator, and it may not be heaven, but they might be able to get you in for free. This could save you as much as $3 an hour. And with your new job in the Smith sub-basement, unless you’re a free-market volunteer at The Spectator, you’ll receive a monthly stipend! Generally, the stipends range from about $150 to $500 per month. Make friends while making money while saving money – all in the university setting.