Smile Politely

A Building, A Feeling, and A Latrine: Back to School 2023

The outside of a brick and cement building. There are columns separating tile walls and windows. There is a parking lot visible in the lower left corner. It's a sunny day with no clouds.
Tom Ackerman

It’s late August and the students are BACK. Which means it’s time to head to campus for another back-to-school edition of B/F/L!


508 S. Sixth Street

Just the other day, I was eating at Jipbap (I’m not a food writer, but this is one of my fav lunch spots fyi) and I looked out the window and saw this building:

The outside of a brick and cement building. There is a big grassy yard in front of the building and a large black sign that says 508 S. Sixth street
Tom Ackerman

I thought to myself: “say, that’s some fun retro 60s/70s style, I wonder what that building is?” so I investigated. 

The outside of a brick and cement building. There are small cement circles, stacked up to create columns and a set of stairs leading down to a solid white door. It's a sunny day with no clouds.
Tom Ackerman

First off, I love these block grates along the south wall. I might feel differently if I was inside the building trying to look out, but from the outside I think they’re cool. Further research shows that these are called “breeze blocks” and people like them for that “mid-century modern” look.  

On the west side… a completely blank wall!

The backside of a brick building. Made up of a solid brick wall. There is a low green bush on the right side and trees and blue sky visible above the building.
Tom Ackerman

On the north, more windows but without the breeze blocks (which makes sense I guess if the blocks are supposed to give partial protection from direct sunlight).

The outside of a brick and cement building. There are columns separating tile walls and windows. There is a parking lot visible in the lower left corner. It's a sunny day with no clouds.
Tom Ackerman

From here we can get a better look at the tile work though:

A close up shot of a tile wall in shades of brown, tan, and white.
Tom Ackerman

Love it! These are all my favorite colors by the way. *chef’s kiss*

On the east side: some power boxes, air conditioners, and this… half-size door? What is this thing for?

A brick wall with some meters attached to the wall and a very small white door. There is a parking lot visible in the lower left side of the picture.
Tom Ackerman

It’s got a lock on the outside but no handle. Is this for the building goblins? For a single large potbelly pig that lives here? I want to know so bad.

For that matter, it’s still a total mystery to me what this whole building is for. It’s clearly owned by the University, but it sure ain’t very big. When I was there taking photos nobody entered or exited the building, though some lights inside did appear to be on. I didn’t take a really close look in the windows (because that would be rude and creepy). 

VERDICT: If you know what this retro gem is used for, let me know.


Quad Day

I have the privilege/curse of being at Quad Day most years repping a community organization that I’m a part of. If you don’t know what Quad Day is, it’s the day at the beginning of each fall semester where EVERY student club and organization sets up a table to try and get some new members. 

There’s thousands of students in attendance, with everyone working a booth is yelling to try and get the attention of impressionable freshmen, and it’s usually hot as balls outside (it was especially gross and muggy this year). 

A huge group of students are walking down a sidewalk full of tables.
Tom Ackerman

Even though Quad Day is exhausting, it’s equally magical. Seeing all the different things students care about, from beekeeping to virtual reality, is really fun. Watching freshmen wander through hundreds of stalls in a daze, signing up for way more things than they could possibly participate in, and watching as they dream about the new person they could become; the new friends they might make. Fear not my child, high school is over. Ahead stretches a future where you can be anything and anyone – a Bollywood dancer, an actuary, or just a guy who plays Frisbee golf. 

VERDICT: I truly wish we had a Quad Day for non-students. Like, I know there’s some community orgs every week at the Urbana Market at the Square, but it’s not the same. Give me one afternoon where EVERY Chambana community group is out with a table trying to get me to join. I’ll be there. I’ll be there thinking about reinventing myself at the age of 35. 


The 2nd Floor Restroom at Raising Cane’s

So, I wouldn’t normally review a bathroom at a chain restaurant, but there’s a story with this one. You see, many, many months ago, when the Raising Cane’s near campus was still under construction, a mysterious package arrived on my doorstep. This package was addressed to the aforementioned Raising Cane’s but had come to me as it turns out our addresses are very similar. 

Obviously, I opened the box. What if there was chicken in there that might spoil? What if there was employee t-shirts in there that happened to be in my size?? What if the package contained a recipe book with all of Cane’s secret recipes?!?

However, the box contained none of that. Instead it contained a fancy and expensive faucet. This faucet in fact:

A big industrial metal sink with a silver flat edged faucet. A mirror is visible the top of the picture.
Tom Ackerman

Which now sits in the 2nd floor restroom. Yes, I ended up delivering the package to its rightful place, but I knew I’d have to return one day and find that which was briefly in my possession. 

Which brings us to this review. The 2nd floor restroom at Raising Cane’s is an all-gender restroom with a very visible sign on the door that says RESTROOM. 

A silver door with a frosted window panel with the word restroom in big black letters. There is a sign on the wall to the left that shows it is an all gender restroom.
Tom Ackerman

Inside it’s very industrial. Lots of steel.

A dark gray and white tile wall next to a white toilet with a half wood and half tile floor.
Tom Ackerman

Plus these lights that look like they’re from a dock or a barge or something. 

Tom Ackerman

Plenty of space in this bathroom, plus the always important baby-changin’ station. 

The faucet itself is pretty cool actually. Unlike most motion-activated faucets, this one has a temperature selector switch on the right side, so you can choose how hot the water that comes out is.

A big industrial metal sink with a silver flat edged faucet. On the side of the faucet is a small lever with one red and one blue dot on either side.
Tom Ackerman

I don’t see why more motion faucets don’t do this. Yes I’m being forced to touch a thing if I want to change the temp, but I’m washing my hands immediately afterwards so what does it matter? The very large trough-style sink seems like overkill, but I suppose it matches the rest of the aesthetic. 

VERDICT: Honestly if I’m ever eating in the 1st floor of Raising Cane’s I think I’ll take the elevator up here if I need to use a bathroom. 

That’s all for now. See you next month dear readers!

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