Close Encounters
Last Watch: Getting residence halls shipshape before move-in day's big tempest

By Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs

23 August 00 | It was the lull before the storm.

With student move-in day less than a week away, senior building maintenance worker Jonathan Winters, carrying a clip board and orange tool tray, climbed the stairs to a silent second-floor hallway of Clark Kerr Campus' Building 4.

Light from a window fell on the carpet that would soon be a busy thoroughfare for exuberant undergrads - plus dad, mom and sibling Sherpas - lugging computer monitors, sound systems, pint-sized refrigerators and small mountains of clothing.

"Hello! Maintenance!" announced Winters, temorarily on loan from his home base, campus's Smyth-Fernwald family housing complex. He gently pushed open the door to the first room on the right.

Inside - where shades were drawn, desks and bookcases stood, empty blue mattresses lay exposed and bare - he made a final check before 8 a.m., Aug. 20, when some 800 undergrads would begin their descent on the dorm.

Winters said his manager, Kathleen Hyland, prepares the Clark Kerr maintenance crew for the big day by requesting that each be willing to do one special favor, such as completely rearranging a room's bunk beds.

On the lookout for minor problems, Winters proceeded first to the far wall, testing the casement window cranks, and then eyeballed the top of the curtains to make sure the pulls were in place.

"The way these are constructed, the pull holds the edge of the curtain onto the slide," Winters said. "If the pull falls down, the edge of the curtain falls with it. In a room where light shines in, that might be a problem."

One pull was missing; he discovered it in a closet.

Winters reattached the pull rod, then checked bookshelves to make sure that shelf support pins were in place.

He counted bookshelves, beds, desks, wardrobes, dressers, chairs. Furniture tends to migrate through the dorm, he said, and "all the lounge furniture will end up in somebody's room."

A loose screw on a desk chair got a quick twist.

Next he approached the door closer with the meticulous attention of a pit mechanic preparing a race car for the start.

It took several adjustments with an Allen wrench before the door closed smoothly. But it still wasn't shipshape, in Winter's estimation.

"When I look at the door, it's closer to the frame at the top than the bottom," he explained. "That tells me to check the hinge screws."

After tightening screws and giving the latch a squirt of lubricant, he tested the door a final time, and pronounced it cured.

In the hallway, custodial staff had arrived to perform their own final touch-ups, starting with rooms on the far end of the corridor.

Winters walked in their direction, made a quick left into a cavernous, green-tiled bathroom.

"You can drive yourself nuts trying to catch every detail," he said, stopping to jot a reminder on his clipboard before checking light bulbs in the toilet stalls.

"Close Encounters" is a new, occasional Berkeleyan column documenting unofficial moments in campus life. If you have an idea for a column, contact Berkeleyan writer Cathy Cockrell at or 643-9259.



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