I’m no stranger to roughing it in the outdoors, where mud-smeared faces stare longingly at the last granola bar, and things like clean underwear and socks are considered to be luxury items rather than necessities. Nonetheless, when Do It in the Dark came around, I was a bit baffled as to why my fellow Williams students were abandoning the warm embrace of their cushy beds to hunker down on the cold, unforgiving concrete in front of Paresky. While anxiously hoping that not all of these people were afflicted with some sort of phobia of indoor heating, I set out to discover the real draw that enticed them away from their dorms and into the outdoors.
My first thought was that this must be a part of some harebrained scheme to cut down on energy use in their building to win the coveted Snack Bar points. The appeal of those hot, cheesy mozzarella sticks and addictive cookies ’n’ cream milkshakes had already driven many of my fellow Willy dorm-ers to stumble around restrooms in pitch darkness, set the thermostat to frigid temperatures and glare menacingly at anyone who dared to have both their room light and their desk light shining so brightly (I may or may not have taken a 30-minute shower in Sage F’s fourth floor bathroom … you’ll never know).
Despite being the competitive person that I am, my rationale was that the amount of energy being saved by sleeping outside when the lights are already off and everyone is sleeping is absolutely zero, unless you have a Mickey Mouse nightlight that chows down on energy like a hungry rhinoceros. So, where was the appeal for sleeping outside? I decided that the only way to find out was to grab my trusty sleeping bag, put on some warm layers and solve the mystery by being in the very heart of it.
I trooped over to Paresky on Thursday night in the high spirits that Williams students can only have when they know they should be studying for midterms but have found something much more entertaining to do instead. I casually slipped into the ranks and immediately zeroed in on the huge canisters of steaming hot chocolate and a freshly made cheese pizza from the ’82 Grill. This was certainly a step up from the dehydrated beans and powdered cheese from the campouts of my childhood.
Sipping my cup of hot chocolate, suddenly everyone formed a big circle and started saying, “It’s time for the call-out! Call-out, everybody!” Call-out? Would we be shouting environmentally friendly slogans at the top of our lungs across Paresky lawn? Were we prank-calling our soon-to-be President Falk? I was clueless, but decided to employ the tried and true method of nodding along as if everything made sense, then listening carefully to see if I could cobble together some idea of the plan. It worked like a charm, and I soon realized that we were calling Massachusetts representatives to protest the dirty energy powering every one of our dorms.
Everything began to click into place as I dragged forward some foggy memory of a bill eradicating dirty energy being held up like a car in rush hour traffic. I wasn’t too sure of the details surrounding the holdup, but even I can understand the power of 30 or so college students ringing up Massachusetts politicians at 10:30 at night to state their opinions, especially if those opinions are repeated for four nights in a row. Never underestimate our never-ending persistence or our nearly nocturnal circadian rhythms! Having experienced my first real moment of activism, I was looking forward to seeing how the rest of the night would go.
The lovely voices of Ephoria then joined the party as Michelle Rodriguez ’12 belted out an amazing rendition of Jordin Spark’s “Battlefield.” After that definite step above your average campfire song, the party dispersed as some left to finish up their homework, others set up their sleeping gear and the rest stayed to mingle and chat. People were certainly getting cozy, especially in the towering eight-person tent.
We eventually settled down for the night, and I thought that was the end of my experience as a Paresky lawn camper. Little did I know, I would soon be rudely awakened at 4:30 in the morning by the tent door flapping in the breeze. What a rookie mistake. Who leaves the tent door open when it’s freezing outside and is only going to get colder? I huddled into my sleeping bag, hoping that if I just ignored it I could fall asleep, but it was a futile effort. Wrapping my sleeping bag tightly around my shoulders, I stood up and hopped to the front of the tent like I was in a potato sack race, zipped up the tent as quietly as I could, and laid my shivering self back down as I seethed inwardly about the lazy culprit. If only I had some shaving cream and a feather, then we’d be having a real nostalgia kick about our childhood summer camps. Eventually though, I got back to sleep.
I’d say my excursion outdoors was a success: I got to harass two representatives late at night, I ate pizza and listened to great music and I suppose I learned about the consequences of dirty energy as well. And, of course, maybe I helped my entry on its way to the Williams Holy Grail: free Snack Bar points.