Squared away and ready to go

I’ve always been a big fan of occasions like “Talk like a Pirate Day” or “High Five Day,” so when “Square Root Day” rolled around last week, of course I had to celebrate.

Square Root Day occurred on 3/3/09 (because three squared is nine), and it was an especially noteworthy milestone because it won’t come again for another seven years (4/4/16). It’s the kind of day designed especially for mathematicians or punsters, but that shouldn’t stop everyone else from enjoying it.

I thought it would be appropriate to organize a whiffleball game in the Science Quad (3 strikes, 3 outs, 9 innings), but the snow foiled those plans. Instead, I rallied several friends and headed over to Mission Dining Hall for Math Professor Frank Morgan’s “Square Root Day Math Puzzle Dinner.” As a non-mathematics major who, incidentally, has not taken a math class since high school calculus, I was hoping that the event would be heavy on the “Square Root Day Dinner” part.

When I arrived, the event was a solemn affair, a table of math professors and majors working through a sheet of math problems. I swallowed my intimidation and whipped out several computer print-outs I had brought for decoration. I scotch-taped a picture of ROOT-y Giuliani to the wall beside “ROOT-olph the Red Nosed Rein-SQUARE” and a fROOT Loops box. The room looked more festive already.

I went to fill my plate with food, keeping a special eye open for root vegetables. I loaded two baked potatoes on my tray, eager to cut them into squares. I don’t even like potatoes that much, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices in the spirit of the occasion. The big jackpot moment came when I found a vegetable medley with carrots cut into cubes – “squarrots,” if you will. I heaped several spoonfuls into a bowl, planning to pick out all the squarrots and enjoy them separately. Peas had no place in my life on a day such as this.

Back in the party room, we went around the table introducing ourselves and sharing our favorite “square” things; the items ranged from crossword puzzles, to brownies, to “my parents.” I had a bluegrass CD in my backpack, but something told me that this was not necessarily the square dancing type of crowd. I wasn’t sure whether it was the singing type of crowd either, but I had written a Square Root Day anthem to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and it deserved a chance to shine. The party guests looked horrified when I told them that we’d be filming the musical number. Several took this opportune moment to remember that they wanted to get fro-yo, but I managed to barricade the door before all of them escaped. We recorded the song in two takes, and I’m pretty sure it will be a YouTube smash sensation before long.

It’s possible that I’m the most gung-ho math fan who has never actually taken a math class at Williams. I’ve certainly considered it, but there were just so many other classes I also wanted to take. Now, here I am in my last semester at college, and it’s too late. It’s not just math that fell neglected. I have not taken a single course in political science, physics, women’s and gender studies, Africana studies, linguistics or German. The list is long and, frankly, a bit depressing.

It’s not that I regret the choices I made – neither my major nor my extracurriculars – it’s just that there are so many exciting options out there that, inevitably, I didn’t get to explore. I can’t help but muse over the stones I didn’t get to turn over, the doors behind which I did not get to peek.

Luckily, I have a solution. Lately, I’ve been telling people about my plan for next year, when I come back to Williams as a first-year. I’ll major in math and studio art. I’ll do Sankofa. Maybe gospel choir or WUFO. I probably won’t do a cappella, but at least I’ll try out this time.

“Didn’t you graduate?” some professors might ask.

I’ll tell them that I’m so sorry, but I think they might be confusing me with someone else. If they press the issue, I’ll feign a coughing fit and sprint to the bathroom. I’ll show up to class the next day with a better disguise.

The job market will be better another four years down the line. I’ll get four more Mountain Days. I won’t get to an experience another college Square Root Day, but it’s okay because this year’s was memorable enough.

Speaking of special occasions, though, I have my hands full. Pi Day (3/14) is right around the corner, and of course I’ll have to celebrate.

Elissa Brown’09 is a psychology major from Palo Alto, Calif.