The Learned Hall classroom was dark and there was a note on the door. It said simply: ``We applied the five-minute rule.'' In other words, this group of 14 junior high and high school students spending the week at Kansas University for an engineering camp had waited five minutes for their classroom leader to arrive.
Such is the often disputed but ever-present campus tenet that, according to legend, applies to everyone except full professors (they allegedly get 10 minutes).
In other words, these girls were learning quickly.
Sure, they were all hiding under a desk when the engineering camp chaperones came looking for them, but the note was a sign that the teens were soaking up more than just facts and figures.
They were already adapting to the college life, and proof of this was quite evident during a lunch hour spent with the young students last week. The girls couldn't stop rattling off rapid-fire assessments of their crash course in the ways of old KU.
``It's a lot of walking,'' said Miah Hart, a junior at Washington High School in Kansas City, Kan.
Kelli Hosman, a sophomore at Blue Springs (Mo.) High School, agreed.
``The worst thing about it -- it's so tiring,'' Hosman said of their 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., military-like schedule as the group crossed 15th Street heading toward Daisy Hill. ``There's like no crosswalk, so we just jaywalk right through it.''
``... Jayhawk right through it,'' corrected Shannon Sanderson, a sophomore at Olathe South High School.
The girls moved for a week into the fifth floor of KU's Ellsworth Hall while they studied the principles of engineering in lectures, labs and field trips. At Ellsworth they studied the principles of dorm life.
For instance, the golf camp boys staying below them were constantly, from the elevator, trying to sneak peeks at the girls, who were told the first day that they are not allowed to ``fraternize'' with any boys. As for the people above them, they liked to move their furniture around while the girls were trying to sleep.
Oh, and the rooms were freezing cold, the showers were tiny, the walls were pink and the lights had to be out by 10 p.m. -- the curfew, of course, representing one very non-college thing.
And although they knock on the doors bright and early and late at night, the ``RAs,'' the common name for the resident assistants working each floor, have been vigilant but not oppressive, they said.
``They haven't kept tabs on us 24-7,'' Hosman said.
Other tidbits: they had a chance to try the late-night local standby of Pizza Shuttle, but never got a chance to do a midnight run to Joe's Bakery. Also, each claims their dorm room is not out-of-hand messy.
``I'm a neat freak when I live out of a suitcase,'' Sanderson said.
Tracy Jamison, a ninth-grader at Olathe's Frontier Junior High, and Sanderson agreed that KU's overall atmosphere is nice, but that some of the lectures are simultaneously boring and way over their heads. Welcome to college.
At Mrs. E's cafeteria in Lewis Hall, Jamison, Sanderson and Hosman all sat together. The aerospace engineering campers' lunch beverage of choice? Surge, with extra caffeine to stay awake during class.
``I've actually learned a lot,'' Jamison said.
What about parents? Are they calling every day wanting to know how you are?
``They want me to call every night,'' Sanderson said, sounding annoyed.
``Only once!'' Jamison exclaimed, although it was during the Chicago Bulls-Utah Jazz NBA finals game.
``It's kind of cool living without your parents, but sometimes you need 'em,'' Hosman said.
``I'm loving it,'' Jamison said. ``I miss my CD player.''
They also complained of the lack of homey touches on the walls.
``It's a pink prison cell,'' Jamison added.
The campus as a whole? Different story.
``This is a pretty campus,'' Sanderson said.
Hosman's greatest thrill: walking into Allen Fieldhouse.
But generally speaking, the girls experience as a pseudo-collegians only made them thirst for more freedom.
``We're constantly supervised,'' said Rachelle Herod, a sophomore at Lawrence High. ``We complain about it a lot, but we've gotten a lot out of this week.''
Herod and Kelcie Fincham, a junior at Free State High, said that they've had to readjust to getting up early, but that it's been a good time. Their main complaint: the only scheduled leisure activity was walking around the mall.
But Friday night was movie night, so prospects may have been looking up. Or maybe not.
``We asked for `Ferris Bueller,''' Fincham said.
``It'll probably be something like `Anastasia,''' Herod said.
-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.