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Matthew and the Argonauts

Making it happen_colorIt’s a sunny Thursday afternoon. We’re at the very back of the Residential Life offices in Erickson, at a cluster of desks. Periodically, garbled messages come through a two-way radio.

“For the record, this is Matthew Wood, and we’re sitting in the Residential Life Facilities Office. Today is the twentieth of October, 12:30 p.m.” He laughs, sitting across the desk from me as if in an interrogation room. Wood is a contingent employee of the state, filling a role he previously worked as a graduate assistant.

“I work for residential facilities, which is separate from the Campus Facilities Management,” said Wood. “I work directly for Residential Life.” Wood’s responsibilities include campus security systems, managing student staff and working with professional tradespeople.

“Odds are if something is broken in a resident’s room, that’s our responsibility to fix,” said Wood. To make this happen, maintenance staff, tradespeople and coordinators need a way around campus. That’s where the fleet comes in.

“We’ve got five or six regular gas vehicles,” said Wood, “then we’ve got three electric carts.” Distinguishing ResLife Facilities vehicles from other campus trucks, though, is the small vinyl lettering on the doors of each truck: Argo, Bounty, Constellation, Dreadnought, Enterprise.

The vans and trucks that shuttle ResLife professionals around campus each have their own name. This tradition “was started by a former assistant director of Residential Life named Chris Gunther,” said Wood. “The first vehicles that he procured, he started naming them.” Each vehicle has taken on the name of a famous ship.

For example, the Constellation van runs on liquid natural gas. A pair of Ford F-150 pickup trucks, the Dreadnought and Enterprise, are new on campus. The Bounty is a rusty 1986 Dodge van that still makes its way around the loop. “If it didn’t have state tags, it could have classic tags,” said Wood.

James Gallagher for TRW

Wood is lucky enough to drive a newer truck, christened Argo, the first vehicle procured by ResLife Facilities. You’ve probably seen the massive 2000 Chevrolet truck parked on Center Rd.

Though Wood feels that if he and his colleagues are doing a good job, they’re mostly invisible, the Argo commands attention. “But it’s kind of hard not to notice a big honking truck with toolboxes on it that says ‘Argo,’” said Wood. “That thing is a beast.”

Though the originator of the naming tradition no longer works at UMBC, Wood and his colleagues have kept it going. It helps in bookkeeping and tracking assets, but it also adds a touch of fun to the job. “The one rumor that was going around, and I kind of helped spread it once I heard about it,” said Wood, “was that it actually used to say ‘cargo’ but the C fell off, so we just call it the Argo.”

Right now, Wood is facing a new challenge. ResLife’s locksmith recently got a new van, and it needs an ‘f’ ship name. “These are complicated problems we need to solve,” said Wood with a laugh. “We’ve had a lot of meetings and many hours of discussion.”