Early 1970s I am off to my very first Open University lecture, somewhere on the Leeds Uni campus. I follow the detailed sketch map and, despite my poor sense of direction, eventually find the right building.
The room I have to find is on the fourth floor so I go to find a lift.
I won’t glorify this contraption by calling it a lift – lifts should have doors and buttons to press, and emergency phones in case of problems. This has none of those. But it does elevate so I guess elevator will do.
The open boxes move slowly and steadily upwards or downwards and people jump into or out of them, seeming to get their timing just right so that they don’t fall, or get trapped. I watch for a bit but chicken out. Oh no – I cannot possibly use that. What a nightmare. It may be acceptable for lithe young students who have no imagination, no fear, and no responsibilities. But I am a more mature student with a healthy self-preservation streak.
I head for the stairs, all four floors of them, and arrive breathless – not a good start to my first lecture. I will have to allow more time in the future. Goodness, I will get fit.
It is a long time since I left school and I am out of practice with being in a classroom. At school you were asked to raise your hand if you knew the answer to a direct question, or occasionally challenged if the teacher thought you were not paying attention. Here I am being asked for my opinion – the tutor seems to think my opinion might actually be worth hearing – how different from the writing on the board and rote learning of my schooldays. It is scary to begin with, but becomes more comfortable over time, as we are all hungry to learn and want to contribute our views and thoughts on the material.
One day, walking out in deep discussion with the tutor, I realise we are heading for those moving boxes – oh dear. Now do I admit to being a wimp? Of course not. I match his confident stride, get politely ushered ahead of him, and really have no option but to step in. Not so bad once you’ve done it for the first time.
I later learn they were called Paternoster Lifts (Our Father – because of the need for some strenuous prayers to ensure safety, maybe?) and that there have been a few deaths and accidents using such lifts. Thankfully they are now no longer in existence. Certainly present day Health and Safety would never approve. And I wonder how on earth anyone even slightly disabled would have been able to use them – surely not possible. Although accessibility for the disabled seemed not to be considered so much in those far distant days.
It is now several decades since that first degree, and that time is still remembered with fondness, and, if I am honest, some pride, that I put myself through all that studying, and succeeded. It certainly gave me the confidence in myself that I sorely needed, and the impetus to challenge myself to go onwards and upwards both education and career-wise.
So, no regrets, except for those fearsome lifts.
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