Adam Jorn Beals
Class of 2006
9:30 a.m., May 21, 2006
When I showed up at Grinnell for New Student Orientation four short years ago, one of the first things I wanted to check out was the Burling basement bathrooms. Not because I'd had a lot of apple juice on the ride up or anything, but because when I visited campus as a prospective student my tour guide mentioned that the bathroom walls were covered with pithy graffiti. My tour guide also mentioned that her boss had expressly forbidden taking prospies to see the graffiti. You all know how it is when something is forbidden, but unfortunately one thing led to another and my prospie visit ended before I'd had a chance to check out the bathrooms.
I thought about those restrooms all summer. I built them up in my mind until I began to regard my first visit to them as a kind of rite of passage, like my own private medallion ceremony. When New Student Orientation finally rolled around and I told my roommates that I was going to ditch them to go check out the library, they all called me a nerdlinger for heading to Burling before classes had even started. I didn't mind though; I was about to live the dream. I actually had kind of a tough time finding the bathroom, because there aren't really any arrowed signs in the basement to point it out. In fact, by the time I finally found the bathroom I was so disoriented that I wasn't entirely sure if it was men's or women's. The first thing I saw when I entered, though, was "I love my girlfriend exclamation point" written in huge letters on the outside of one of the stalls, so I felt fairly confident that I was in the right place. Then I noticed that there weren't any urinals and I thought, "huh must be a gender equality thing. Man, Grinnell is so progressive!" And let me tell you, my tour guide was right on about the graffiti: gorgeous figure paintings and landscapes decorated the wall, there were quotes from poets I'd never even heard of and somebody had even drawn a neat little picture of dinosaur eating a building on one of the rolls of toilet paper. Also, there wasn't a single pejorative sentence in the entire bathroom and I sort of swelled with pride and thought "Man, Grinnell guys are really sensitive!"
I found out later, of course, that I'd been in the women's bathroom, but I also found out that sensitive isn't a strong enough word to describe Grinnellians. You all radiate compassion in everything you do and you're inspiring to watch. I picked up the Senior issue of the S&B yesterday and found out that starting Tuesday our class plans to scatter itself around the globe. As I read on I realized that although our destinations differ, we all have altruistic aims and I'm sure that our pursuit of the greater good will be a vigorous one. I'm sure, because Grinnellians are not the type to kick back and wait for things to come to them. Case in point: one day last semester I passed Patrick Waldo in the loggia and said, "what's up?" Now keep in mind that this was back in the fall when graduation was still an eternity away and most seniors responded to the question, "so, what are your plans for next year?" by punching you in the face. Waldo's response to my generic greeting was "Dude! Next year my band and I are going to move to Italy and we're going to play every club in the country and we're going to rock so hard that we spark a punk revolution that'll take over the world!" At the time I thought Waldo was joking about the whole revolution thing, but Waldo really is going to Italy next year, and if you saw him perform at the Senior Showcase last night then you know he's got the chops to pull it off. And if igniting a punk rock revolution isn't altruistic, I don't know what is.
People keep telling me that Grinnellians are awkward, but I don't see it. I feel like the quintessential Grinnell experience is to be sitting by yourself somewhere, say Bob's, and to be absolutely engrossed in a book, when all of a sudden somebody you've never met before comes up to you and asks something like, "So, do you think Shakespeare is responding to the Phaedrus in act 3?" And all of a sudden that question becomes the catalyst for several hours of intense discussion and maybe even a hook-up. The great thing about the quintessential Grinnell experience is that you wake up the next morning with a new friend who introduces you to all of his or her friends who are all wonderful and dynamic and say interesting things. So thank you, seniors, for being there to break the ice in Bob's. Thank you for your insight in class and your energy at Harris. Thank you for waking up early this morning and pounding ibuprofen so that you could make it back here to Herrick where it all began. The past four years have flown by, and I'd say we've all progressed nicely.