In the spirit of Halloween, I have a ghost story for you. It’s the tale of a registrar named Ramona and her worst nightmare. Let me take you back to a cold, dark night in Atlanta where it all began…
It was the second week of classes at AMU college. Ramona knew the first few weeks were always a bit more stressful than usual. But one instructor in particular, Mr. Barton, was already two days late in getting his attendance data to her. She came into the office early in the morning and saw an email from him. She hoped it would be the info she needed, but instead, it was a message from him apologizing that his attendance records were late and that he’d get them to her sometime that day. Annoyed, she began working on other things.
Just after lunch, she finally received the records from Mr. Barton. She entered the data into the SIS and noticed that three students were absent. For two of the students, it was their first missed class. But the third student, Sadie Samuels, hadn’t shown up to class once yet! She proceeded to call the students to urge them to attend class and improve their standing. The first two answered, but Sadie didn’t. Ramona needed to get in contact with her for policy reasons and inform her of her at-risk status! And just her luck, Sadie’s voice mailbox was full, so Ramona couldn’t even leave a message. After calling two more times without an answer, Ramona started to get worried that she might have to drive to Sadie’s house to get in touch with her and possibly miss a dinner date with a friend she had scheduled that evening. “This is why I need the records earlier!” she thought. Frustrated, Ramona hoped that Sadie would call her back before the day was over so she didn’t have to visit her in person.
The hours passed by and Ramona didn’t hear a peep from Sadie. It was starting to get late. At this point, Ramona knew she had no choice but to drive to Sadie’s house. Reluctantly, she pulled up Sadie’s address, got in the car, and plugged the address into her navigation system. It was a 40 minute drive to the outskirts of town. Less than thrilled about a long evening drive, Ramona began making her way to Sadie’s.
During her drive, it started to rain. The setting sun and incoming cloud cover quickly darkened the sky. Ramona called up her friend and asked to reschedule their dinner plans. On the radio they were talking about a devastating fire that happened 20 years ago in the area, one that took out a small complex of houses and tragically, a family that couldn’t escape their home in time. Focused on the road, Ramona didn’t think twice about what the radio was broadcasting. Before long, she was about 10 minutes away from Sadie’s house.
Ramona noticed that her navigation system was telling her to turn down a dirt road to get to Sadie’s. The road had no street lamps and was surrounded by dark, leafless trees on either side. Ramona was unable to see anything except for a few feet of the road in front of her and the falling raindrops illuminated by her car’s headlights. The trees that surrounded the bumpy road on either side moved with the wind. Ramona was wondering what Sadie was doing living all the way out here.
After a few minutes, the rain subsided to a light drizzle, and the road reached a clearing. Ramona noticed two houses on a hill up ahead. The house on the right had its lights on. Ramona’s navigation system indicated that Sadie’s house was the dark one on the left. Whoever lived there was either not at home or asleep for the night. Ramona got out of her car and walked up to the door, looking through the windows for any signs of life on her way. She rang the doorbell and waited.
No answer. She banged on the door three times, making sure anyone inside would hear her. Still nothing. Frustrated, Ramona pulled out her phone to try Sadie’s line one more time. Before she could put the phone to her ear, however, she heard a voice.
“Hello. I noticed your car outside. We hardly ever get visitors — can I help you?” Startled, Ramona turned to her right to see an old woman standing across the driveway. Ramona answered, “Um, yes. I’m looking for Sadie Samuels. Does she live here?”
“Sadie? Not anymore, I’m afraid,” the old lady replied.
“Oh — can you tell me where she lives? I need to talk to her.”
“Sadie died 20 years ago.”
Ramona was stunned. “What? Died??”
“Yes,” the old woman said. “She died in a horrible fire. The Samuels’ house burned down and she was trapped inside with her parents and siblings.”
“But that doesn’t make any sense — she’s enrolled in our school!” Ramona was shocked.
“I don’t know what to tell you, dear. Sadie left us a long time ago.”
Not believing her ears, Ramona decided it was time to leave. “I’m sorry, I have to go. Thank you.”
Ramona was in pure disbelief as she drove back onto the dirt road. “Dead? 20 years ago? In a fire?” she thought. She had to get some clarity on the situation, so she raced back to work to see what she could find out about Sadie Samuels.
When she got back to school, the campus was still. There wasn’t a soul in sight. Lights glistened off the wet surface of the concrete. She got to the office, and frantically rummaged through papers to pull up Mr. Barton’s roster. She found it. Her eyes skipped down to the S names. Saban, Salah, Siebert… where was Samuels?? She checked the SIS. No Sadie Samuels. How could this be? She even found her address on the SIS earlier that day! Dazed and confused, Ramona worried she was starting to go insane.
At that moment, Ramona sat up in her bed. She looked outside, saw the sun rising and heard birds chirping. It was all just a dream. Relieved, she chuckled at the thought of needing to hunt down a student because of late attendance records. “That would never happen” she reminded herself. “We have CourseKey.”