Milam’s Musings, milambc@miamioh.edu

When I’m in Oxford, I sometimes feel like Valentine Michael Smith from Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land,” which is to say: lost and confused.

After seven years at Miami, I still find myself checking the campus map before driving to campus. Then checking the big white boards with the campus map again when I arrive.

And I still get lost.

I was on the Oxford campus earlier today and yes, I got lost.

But before getting lost while walking on campus, I had to park, wherein I also got lost.

The first parking garage I tried was the one near High Street (I’m currently looking at the campus map to make sure I get this right).

But the garage was full, which I should have expected since it was after 10 a.m., so I figured I’d try the garage on Campus Avenue.

Of course, I didn’t know how to get there. Thankfully, my dependency on my phone came in handy, as I used my Maps app to plug in (what I thought) was the right street.

That’s right: I used the Maps app to get from one parking garage at Miami to another, a mere few streets over.

And I didn’t even do that right, as I accidentally selected Beech Street, where I had been the previous Saturday, also getting lost.

That night I  parked on a random street somewhere near Beech Street to try the Oxford Hookah Lounge for the first time.

As an aside, I should say, with Lounge in the title, the comfy couches and the general chill vibe around hookah, I can’t be the only one that thinks loud, thumping music doesn’t quite gel with the atmosphere? I need some Bob Marley in that moment.

In any event, when I came out of the Hookah Lounge with my girlfriend, it was dark. In the daylight, everything on campus and around campus in Oxford looks the same to me. At nighttime, it’s hopeless.

We must have walked up and down and around Vine Street, North Campus Avenue, West Withrow Street and Church Street for a solid hour, just as various house parties and revelers revved up.  

Me, hopelessly clicking my car key alarm too far out of reach, and her, walking in her white socks, her new high heels too much on the crooked sidewalks.

Eventually, we decided on the vintage horror film trope of separating. I ran up and down the aforementioned streets, clicking in vain, until out of the dark I heard my car screaming back at me.

My clicking scheme had worked, so I called her to meet me at our prearranged spot on the corner of Vine and Church.

She didn’t answer. I called again; this time her phone went straight to voicemail. I called again, double-checking what I already suspected: her phone had died.

So, now I had my car, but not her. I used my Maps app to get me to Vine and I circled our prearranged spot.

I then parked in a spot that wasn’t a spot to try to find her on foot. Not long after, I got a phone call from a friend, who my girlfriend and I had just left at a previous get-together.

Odd. Even more odd was that he had my girlfriend. She had stopped a random car on the street to ask how to get to Vine, as she had been going the complete opposite direction.

Somehow, someway, in the dark, with the help of a friend, we had found each other again, without a phone or a clue how to properly navigate Oxford.

Fast-forward to my parking garage situation and I had mapped my way back to the Hookah Lounge. Whoops.

I put in Campus Avenue and arrived at the second parking garage of the day.

The point is, I was trying to get to King Library and specifically, the cafe section.

I’m ashamed to say I’d never been to King Library.

And as such, I got lost. I checked a campus map, thought I was oriented and then I got lost again.

I had started heading instead toward Stoddard Hall because it appeared “library-y” to me.

After turning around, I found the path to King Library and went inside. Luckily for people like me, there’s an information desk where I could ask how to actually get to the cafe part of the library.

This experience and the one on Saturday with the Hookah Bar, have typified much of my experience at Miami when coming to Oxford. Constant map-checking, getting lost, and turning around.

It’s often only by happenstance that I get to where I need to be.

It is for this reason that I often carve out more than enough time to get to Oxford, anticipating my getting lost.

As it turns out, when I first came to interview for this newspaper — and incidentally, the first time I’d been to Oxford at all — I got lost. Back then the paper was at MacMillan instead of Armstrong.

I remember feeling discouraged, ready to leave and blowing off the interview, when the editor at the time called me and lead me to the right place (in more than one way).

To the Oxford students reading this, I suspect I may be something of an anomaly — Oxford’s own Mike from Mars.

As a commuting regional student, Oxford has and still remains an intimidating maze to be conquered for me.

But it’s also, if I can be cliche and obvious for a moment, a beautiful campus.

The other day, I was walking to my philosophy class and just had to stop to notice and take a picture of the roses. At least, my assumption is that every flower is a rose until proven otherwise.

And as I prepare to graduate this May and as my sentimentalities begin cramming up against that day, I wish that’s something I had done more.

Literally stopping to smell the roses (or not roses) and not allowing Oxford, as a campus, to so intimidate me.

To go explore King Library, have a White Chocolate Mocha in its cafe, and not worry so much about getting somewhere and instead focus on already being there.

I’ve never been to the Rec Center. Even though the newspaper’s office is in Armstrong, I only just explored the dining area this past Tuesday. I thought Brick Street was the name of the strip that includes all of Uptown.

I’m realizing there’s quite a bit of this beautiful campus and town I’m oblivious to.

To reference another literary icon, when I wander, it is because I’m actually lost, but I do wish I had done more of the wandering.

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