One in Two Thousand: Max Odell ’22

Saud Afzal

Photo courtesy of Max Odell.

Each week, we randomly select a unix from a list of all current students at the College for our One in Two Thousand feature. As long as the owner of a selected unix is willing to be interviewed and is not a member of the Record board, that person becomes the subject of our interview. This week, the computer (using a script in R) chose Max Odell ’22, who discussed fist-fighting, voting rights for people convicted of crimes, almost getting maimed by heavy equipment and welcoming a kitten into his life. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Do you want to tell me a little bit about yourself?

My name is Max. I’m the youngest of six siblings. I have three half-siblings who are in their 40s and 30s. And then I have two older brothers who are directly older than me. I grew up with my older brothers. We all wrestled and played football. We’d travel around every weekend of the year and go to Pennsylvania and Ohio and New York and New Jersey.

What was it like being the youngest of six siblings?

You learn to be tough. My older brothers — we would always fight. Any argument that we got into invariably ended in fist-fighting. You just learn to be tough. I don’t know, when push came to shove, I was the littlest brother, so that never was really cool. 

I can imagine. Do you guys still fight?

No, not really. I mean, I live 1,100 miles away from them.

That helps.


So are you back home in Florida right now?

I’m actually originally from Connecticut. But I am in Florida right now. 

Did you grow up in Connecticut?

I lived in Connecticut for … 20 years, aside from the time I spent living at Williams. And then I needed to take a leave of absence from the College, and I didn’t really wanna go home to see my family because they would just be constantly bothering me about, “Oh, when are you going back to school?” “What about this?” “What about that?” I heard from family members that I hadn’t heard from in years! They all had something to say about me taking a leave of absence. 

So now you’re back and enrolled at the College. How is it going, as a remote student?

It was kind of tough in the beginning. One, because I didn’t really have my course materials in time for the start of classes. There were a lot of logistics that I thought were kind of overlooked. But I ended up working with various departments and getting all the paperwork and stuff I needed to be able to participate in all my classes. Aside from that, at first it was really tough because oftentimes they were trying to get more and more time from me. Eventually you just have to put your foot down and speak up for yourself. I think that was a big change. I feel like I’m doing a lot better in my classes now. So that transition was hard at first, even though we kind of went through it last semester. But last semester was so different from this semester — the expectations were so much lower. And we had the materials to begin with when we started the semester. 

When you say paperwork, do you mean course packets and textbooks?

Yeah, course packets, books, reading materials. And you know, Murphy’s Law, of course the last book that I would receive is the first book that I need to be reading. So I get it a day before class and I’m like, “I have to read 80 pages between the time I get off work and the time I go to bed! This is glorious!” As well as make dinner, and do laundry, and everything else that comes with living more or less outside of a family unit.

What are you studying?

I am a political science major. My concentration is in American politics. 

This must be an interesting time to be studying that, with the election coming up. Do you have any thoughts about that?

Do I have any thoughts about the election? Well, I’ve considered standing in solidarity with those convicted felons who have had their voting rights stripped, and not voting. But I also feel like that would be to deny my own voice in society and I think that’s stupid. I haven’t voted yet though, because I firmly believe that I would like to go in on Tuesday and vote.

Tell me more about this.

Well, there are so many people who become disenfranchised through the carceral state and the prison system because they are accused of felonious actions and they have various rights stripped from them including, but not limited to, their right to vote. And I think that’s a great evil in our society because these people have long paid for their crimes. If the sentence was five years in prison and they get out after five years, they’re still wearing the scarlet letter. A lot of people call it the scarlet checkmark because on job applications you have to check off whether you’ve ever been convicted of a felony. And that hinders people’s successful reintegration into society, and I think that’s abhorrent. 

How have you been spending your time at home, aside from studying?

Honestly, just hanging around outside. I go on a walk every now and again. My roommate has a dog. There’s a cat that recently just stumbled into my life, and I’ve been dealing with that. I work at a heavy equipment shop in the middle of nowhere, and this cat — this five-month-old kitten — just randomly rolled up one day. 

What work do you do at the heavy equipment place?

It’s dirty. It’s big. It’s heavy. It’s all dangerous. Off the top of my head, I can think of two times where I’ve come pretty close to severely maiming myself on account of things falling. A lot of the things we work with weigh in excess of 10,000 pounds. 

So what do you do with these heavy things? I know nothing about heavy equipment.

So I’m a mechanic. I work on heavy machinery. Drill rigs, pile drivers, vibratory hammers. They install foundations for bridges, skyscrapers, they do shoring projects to prevent erosion on coastal regions, stuff like that. We don’t do the work, we rent, sell and service the equipment. We just got six machines back from a giant project in Orlando working on Interstate 4. I think they drove in excess of two million linear feet of 24-inch steel pile into the ground. Some of them are like 400 feet into the earth. Like, if you throw a rock down into it, you can count 12 seconds before you’ll hear it hit the bottom. 

Would you even hear it? Like, would the sound come back up?

Yeah, it would. Yeah, because it’s just a giant echo chamber. Another project we’re working on is somewhere near Tampa. We have one machine that’s working on old railroad bridges. So it’s walking across this dilapidated wooden bridge that they built in the ’20s or ’30s. Like, you can see the whole bridge just moving underneath it. It’s got like two inches on either side of the machine. It’s a perfect fit for the machine — it’s terrifying. 

Amazing. Now I’m just going to throw a random question at you: coffee or tea?

Coffee. Black. 

Same! I’m drinking black coffee right now.

My man.