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The Grinnell Coincidence

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Choosing a college is hard — no one is going to argue that. Which is why sometimes little things like a squirrel can help make those decisions a whole lot easier.

My parents and I named it Blondie. True to its name, it was tanner than the rest of the Wisconsin squirrels, but with a distinctly red hue. It moved into our backyard my senior year of high school around the time I was plagued with the horrible “which college?” decision.

My mom spotted it first. “It’s a Grinnell squirrel!” she cried. “It’s a Grinnell squirrel! Molly, it’s a sign.”

True, Grinnell squirrels are unique when compared to other gray squirrels in the Midwest. Whether due to inbreeding or some weird genetic drift, they are, in fact, tanner than normal with a distinctly red hue. In the fall, they can also gorge themselves on acorns until they’re the size of a cat, but that’s neither here nor there.

While I made my college decision based on a number of factors that did not involve squirrels, it’s the little coincidences that make me confident my decision was right.

Given the smaller size of the school, Grinnellians are plagued with a surprisingly large number of coincidences — alums running into current students, students running into other students. During summer break,Alex Cohn ’11 was flying between Washington, D.C., and San Francisco when he ran into one of his floormates in the Denver airport. The time I visited Dan Covino ’10 on the East Coast, we ran into two of our classmates in Philadelphia outside the Liberty Bell Center. Before I even made it to my house for Thanksgiving my senior year, I stopped at the store to get some granola bars and there was Grinnell alum Nicole Spear ’08, who had moved to my hometown after graduating.

When Liz Reischmann ’12 flew in from Florida to visit Grinnell her senior year of high school, she was plagued with flight delays that left her stranded for more than 12 hours in the Detroit airport. Frustrated beyond belief, she was on the verge of asking the airport to just send her home. Standing in line, she noticed that the girl standing ahead of her had a squirrel on her T-shirt. “Isn’t the squirrel the unofficial mascot of Grinnell?” she thought. “That’s funny.” The girl was on the phone and as they both stood there, Liz overheard her talking to her friends.“Sorry, I’m not going to make it to the concert,” she said. “It’s just taking a long time to get to Grinnell.”

Turns out that girl standing in line was Huiting Liu ’10. While they waited for their flight, the two talked and talked and talked, and when Liz finally arrived on campus, she was treated to a 3 a.m. tour of campus.

More than anything, Chris Hildebrand ’10 wanted to get out of Connecticut for college. Still, the beginning of his junior year when, acting in his role of student adviser, he helped move in the new class of first-years, he couldn’t believe his eyes when he picked up a box marked “West Hartford, Conn.” Fun fact: turned out back home he and Sarah Mayer ’12, the girl whose box he was carrying, lived just four miles from each other.

These are the kind of stories that don’t really mean anything significant in the long run, but that stay with you all the same. Even if you’re only at Grinnell for eight months a year for four years of your life, the school has this habit of staying with you until your dying day. Kinda like mono. … But without the getting sick part …

OK, you know what I mean.

Molly Rideout '10 is an English Major and Gender and Women's Studies concentrator from Madison, Wisconsin.

The Importance of Dorm Decorations

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

After a full day of classes, there is nothing more comforting than ambling up a flight of stairs and relaxing in my surrogate home, that is to say, my dorm room. When I open the door to my three-room double, I am immediately transported into a world of color created through a collaborative effort by my roommate and me. Our common room, formally known as the “Boom Boom Room,” absolutely positively reflects our personalities. My roommate and I are both outgoing people who appreciate weird little oddities. Also, to be completely honest, we are both a little crazy — but crazy in a good way and our room personifies this.

Each section of our common room has its own theme, which combines to create a vibrant, almost pastiche feeling. One section of wall is dedicated to unwanted scarves, shirts, bandanas, and afghans that find a home in the Boom Boom Room. Another wall has art made from recycled materials, such as plastic silverware, cups, plates, and denim. The final wall is a drawing wall where our friends are free to doodle with chalk so that they too can leave their mark on the Boom Boom Room. My roommate and I consider our friends as part of a family, so having them contribute to our common room reminds us of the love and support that they continually give.

Because our friends visit often, the common room is laid out so that as many people as possible can sit and chat. We morphed the extra bed (the room was intended for three) into a couch, and the extra desk into a bench. Bringing the furniture together is a stately blue velvet and dark wood chair that we picked up at Goodwill. Watching over the Boom Boom Room, regal and wise as can be, is Alfredo the owl. As crazy and jumbled as the Boom Boom Room may appear to be, it actually comes together in a very soothing homey way, which accurately reflects our personalities.

One of my friends has a room that reflects not only her laid back and inviting personality, but also the way in which her experiences, both at and facilitated by Grinnell, have influenced her. Last semester, she was in New Delhi participating in an off-campus study program. She absolutely adored her time in India, and that adoration is clearly illustrated in her dorm room. The first thing you notice when you walk into her room is the serene and welcoming ambiance created by the layout. Her mattress is on the floor, and opposite it is an extremely comfortable couch. This set-up is perfect for relieving the stresses of the day, as it invites you to sprawl out and take a much-needed respite. While relaxing on the couch, you notice the heavy Indian influence of the room. An elaborate, colorful comforter made in India graces the couch, while the walls are adorned with miniature Indian paintings and dupattas, or scarves, worn by Indian women. Scattered around the room are little figurines of Hindu gods and antique bells, all of which serve as a reminder of a wonderful off-campus study experience.

Dorm rooms are truly a reflection of the people who live in them. The space is an area where you can express yourself and create a home away from home that can serve your every need.

Melanie Jucewicz '12 is a French Major from Chicago, IL

Friday Night Fun

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


It took a church basement full of grade-school kids to show me how much more there is to Iowa than just cornfields.

How did this happen? One Friday afternoon in the spring of my second year, my good friend Dan Covino ’10 convinced me to hop on a campus bus with him and some other volunteers and head to Des Moines to play with underprivileged kids at the Trinity United Methodist Church after-school program.

Friday Fun Night, as this program is called, has been taking Grinnell students to Des Moines in this way for 20 years to engage with extremely energetic but wonderful kids on a weekly basis. Because Grinnell offers so many weekly on-campus events and activities, not to mention whatever impromptu shenanigans students come up with on their own, I had never before seen any reason to leave campus in order to have fun. I was admittedly very skeptical that non-Grinnell Iowa had much of anything to offer me. However, since that first evening, I’ve gone back every chance I get.

Friday Fun Night always seems to be just as much fun for the college students as it is for the grade-schoolers. The club was established by Grinnell students and the Methodist Church to provide children in the area with a safe and supportive environment in which to start off their weekends. Every Friday, Grinnellians coordinate and lead fitness activities for the children, which transition into crafts. We finish out the night by sharing a snack with the kids. Themes reflect major holidays, the seasons, and the choices of the kids themselves. When it gets warm enough, we travel to the playground across the street to play football and capture the flag — but mostly we play soccer. Often the neighborhood kids, usually recent immigrants from Africa and Latin America, join in the games.

Being from an ethnically diverse suburb right outside Chicago, I’m no stranger to cultural diversity. I had arrogantly assumed that outside of Grinnell, bucolic, white-bread Iowa would never be remotely comparable to the diversity found in a metropolitan area the size of Chicagoland. So imagine my surprise to find 40-plus Latino/a, white, and black grade-schoolers romping happily together in a church basement in Des Moines. I was thrilled to discover that I could have conversations in both Spanish and English with pint-sized third-graders. I didn’t realize how much I missed interacting with people outside my age group, especially those younger than me. Volunteering with the student group allowed me to step outside of my college-aged bubble.

Friday Fun Night taught me just how much the areas around Grinnell have to offer my peers and me. Grinnellians are great at coming up with homemade fun, so if you never want to step off campus to enjoy yourself, you don’t have to. But one of the biggest myths I’ve encountered here is that we stick to on-campus activities because we have no other choice. In reality, there is so much more than cornfields to experience offcampus. I believe that Grinnell students tend to forget that the rest of the world also has a multitude of experiences to offer them.

For me, those experiences lay just 45 minutes west down I-80.

Matt Clarke is a Spanish Major from Skokie, IL.

Think Locally (But Bring a Sweatshirt)

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)
Author:  Colette Boilini ’08

It’s a balmy summer morning in San Francisco, and I can feel the sun cascading across my shoulders as I stroll down the sidewalk. As I gently flip my hair off of my shoulders, a figure in the distance catches my attention. He moves with unbridled confidence and even from a distance I can feel the connect — BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Ahh! I’m awake, I’m awake!

Cut to reality: it’s a cold, dark San Francisco morning and I’m cold.

Like many a San Francisco newcomer, I foolishly assumed that the great state of California had a lot of DE-lightful weather in store for me. True, I had been warned to pack as though I were getting ready for an Indiana (my home state) winter. But, as I had just finished a semester with the Urban Studies Program in Chicago, where I had survived my harshest winter yet, I wasn’t exactly feeling intimidated by a California summer.

So, off I went with my tank-top filled suitcase and my Midwestern swagger (oh, just go with it), leaving my “I” states existence behind for the land of chilly summers, big hills, and cool green compost containers. So why, besides the (false) promise of warm weather, did this Indianan-Iowan trek cross country for a two month adventure in California?

Well, my friends, I found love. Not the you-smell-good-I-feel-good-let’s-slowdance-and-change-our-facebook-status love. No, more like the oh-my-gosh-you-are-the-coolest-nonprofit-ever-I’m-totally-inspired kind of love. Oh, come on — stay with me, I’ll explain.

Last semester, thanks to my then-internship supervisor, Ellen, I was introduced to an organization I could have sworn had walked straight out of my dreams: the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). BALLE connects local business networks from all over the United States and Canada, and believes that strong local living economies are crucial in creating healthy and happy communities. Their member networks, of all different sizes and locations, work tirelessly to educate their communities and business owners on the economic, environmental, and social benefits of thinking and acting locally. Their member businesses, all independent and locally owned, span the economic spectrum and range from retailers to zero-waste manufacturers to green builders. Together, the BALLE staff, networks, and member businesses represent a body of individuals who believe there is more to life than the (traditional) bottom line.

So there it was, my dream organization — enlightened, committed to local businesses, and, oh baby, it had 501(c)(3) status! Well, that was it for me. I had to make it mine (so to speak). With as persistent an effort as I’ve ever mustered, I e-mailed, faxed, e-mailed some more, and interviewed my way into an internship with BALLE. And, because Grinnell has an awesome summer grants program, I also applied for and received a grant through the Wilson Program to fund my (unpaid) internship.

Combined, these processes required a great deal of time and committed effort. But, as I sit here (sweatshirt-clad) in San Francisco, sipping coffee and mulling over everything I have already learned, I can say with great confidence — it was all totally worth it.

Colette Boilini ’08 is a Sociology major from Bloomington, Indiana.


At Home in a New World

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


I remember pulling up in the car to Lazier Hall on the first day of New Student Orientation. Lazier, the white-stone residence hall where I was going to live for my first year of college, was not an unfamiliar sight, nor was any other part of campus. Because I had been born and raised in Grinnell, the town and campus were like second nature to me. On top of that, both my parents had been professors at Grinnell College for as long as I had been living, and as a result, the College was a fixture in my life. Yet, when we pulled up in the car, the campus felt totally different. I didn’t really feel like I was going to a familiar place at all. I was going to be living with a roommate from Nepal and I was leaving behind the classmates with whom I had spent the last 12 years. I was just like any other first-year college student — anxious and worried about making new friends.

My anxieties weren’t limited to my social life. I was also apprehensive about the academic scene at Grinnell. I was fortunate enough to take a couple of courses at Grinnell College when I was a high school senior. Yet, to me, that experience was not reassuring. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my academic abilities, and my worries were compounded by the fact that I was well aware of Grinnell’s reputation for academic rigor. I still remember clearly how nervous I felt on the first day of each one of my classes as I scanned the syllabus.

One course, however, was especially intimidating. On the first day of beginning Spanish, my professor informed us that only Spanish would be spoken for the rest of the semester. Although I had taken Latin when I was in high school, I’d never spoken a foreign language conversationally, and the all-Spanish rule made me feel a little panicky. Eventually, though, as my first semester progressed, I became more used to what was expected, and I developed a routine, allowing me to relax a little and enjoy my classes.

Socially, too, things started to even out during the semester, due in large part to a group of guys I had met my first week. Since my roommate was from Nepal, he had arrived on campus long before I had, and he had met a great group of international students and upperclass students who were also on campus early. A couple of his friends invited both of us to join “Friday Night Lights,” a pick-up basketball game on Friday nights. Even though I had not played organized basketball since seventh grade, FNL immediately became the high point in my week — a chance to play and blow off steam. As a result, I became friends with a large, diverse group of people. It was hard to believe that I was having an international experience playing basketball in my hometown.

Music offered yet another way for me to pursue something familiar, yet have many new experiences. Although I had played the euphonium in my high school band, I decided to play trombone in the orchestra in college. I had never played with strings, nor had I played any basic orchestral repertoire. Yet, in my first semester, the orchestra played a piece, “Dona Nobis Pacem,” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and the Grinnell Community Chorus — a large ensemble of college students and townspeople — sang with the orchestra. With both ensembles crammed on the stage of Herrick Chapel, there were easily 100 people working together to perform the piece, a novel and exciting experience. During my second semester, I even played in a contemporary piece in which the notes and dynamics were not actually written for the players; instead, the players decided what notes to play and at what volume to play them. This innovative style was a big change from the usual John Philip Sousa march.

At the beginning of the year when I was meeting new people and talking about my background, many people believed I must have had an easy transition to college life. Not true. I struggled a lot at first. Although I was in a familiar setting, I was surrounded by new people and challenged to take new approaches to what I thought were familiar activities. I was receiving a worldwide experience only four blocks from my family home. I was at home in a new world.

Will Cummins '10 is undeclared and from Grinnell, Iowa.

The Joys of Jane Austen and 16th-Century Midwifery Manuals

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Basically, I knew from the time I learned to read I needed to be an English major in college. I love to read and I love to talk about books — what major could suit me better? Unfortunately, Grinnell has this strange idea that you should have a well-rounded education, so they wouldn’t let me take only English classes. I had a lot of fun experimenting — taking classics, art history, or whatever I felt like. I knew I had already picked my major, so there was no pressure on my schedule.

However, somewhere in my second year, I began to have second thoughts. I was sitting in a dark, empty room in the basement of Burling Library, taking up an entire table with stacks of books and papers, researching a 20-page paper for my history class. I had just spent the last three hours taking notes from microfilm copies of 16th-century midwifery manuals. My neck hurt, my eyes ached from looking at the tiny print, and I was grinning like a maniac. It occurred to me that I was actually enjoying writing that paper. Suddenly I thought, “Maybe I chose my major too soon …”

I had been so set on what I already knew, that I had never considered another option. Thinking back over my first year and a half of college, I realized that my history classes had been my favorite classes every semester. I had always done the reading for those classes first and sometimes had even read ahead (which for me is a big thing, because I’m a terrible procrastinator).

Over the next few days, I strongly considered switching my major to history, but in the end, I couldn’t give up English. I’m definitely an English major at heart. I have an action figure of Jane Austen standing on my desk, and I have been known to interrupt conversations to point out grammatical errors on signs we’re passing. I was reluctant to declare a double major, because I didn’t want to lose all those electives, but in the end I did. It was the best decision I could have made.

Having two majors keeps me balanced. It keeps me from obsessing over literature and literary theory or from burying myself too deeply in the past. Also, because most English and history classes are writing intensive, my writing has improved immensely in the last two years. And the best part is, I still have time for electives. This semester I’m taking sociology and next semester I’m taking a film class and Intro to Psychology.

I’m not saying everyone should double major, but I would recommend keeping your mind open. Take classes in subjects you know you like, but don’t be afraid to try something new. Something may surprise you.

When Prospies Enroll

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


It never seems to occur to prospies how much students pay attention to them. Surprise! We are a lot more curious and fascinated by you than we like to let on. My automatic response to being asked to write about my relationship with prospective students was to dig around my various fetid stacks of random information and give you a nice, steaming pile of overly factual/historical anecdotes. Statistics can be boring, but it’s just my natural Grinnellian desire to impress prospies with whatever I have to offer. Oddly enough, though, my job as a tour guide has often been a nice antidote to my affinity for facts and figures.

After hearing myself talk all day in lists and factual accounts (although I admit I still remain impressed with each item), I always relish the opportunity to be casual and personal. There’s usually one “leader” in each tour group, whether it’s a parent or the prospective student, and occasionally there will be a friend or younger sibling who gets excited about Dag, the foam sword fighting group, or the Grinnell Carnivore Society.

Most often the parent takes on the leadership role, leaving their child, the prospective student, mortally embarrassed. These are the sort of parents who get intensely excited about the giant “jungle gym” carpeted playhouse-style study rooms in the library (like my mom did when I prospied), or by the wide range of quality or bizarre extracurricular activities.

I spend an hour and a half with each family (occasionally longer if I get a theatre person and spend too long trying to get him or her into backstage areas). I’ve managed to enjoy each of these outings thus far, though I must admit that the enthusa-moms or enthusa-dads stand out. I tend to be an enthusiastic person, particularly when it comes to my college, and if you’ve had a tour with me you probably know how I can get even more bubbly at parental units who are equally entertained by the various anecdotes that seep out during those 90 minutes.

One of my other favorite things about being a tour guide—besides the captivated parents, the opportunity to learn more about our incoming classes, the cool people I work with, and feeling like hot stuff for getting lots of special keys for opening locked rooms—is the constant reminder of my own prospie days and how it puts my current student status into perspective.

I remember my first visit to Grinnell when my dad and I went to a free dance performance that made me realize that interpretive dance is not for the weak of heart (I had had a negative perception of it until I was completely blown away by this performance).

I remember being let up to the suspension grid in Bucksbaum and bouncing on wire mesh 30 feet above the black box theatre floor and daydreaming about all the clubs, sports, and activities I could participate in if I ended up at this place.

I also remember thinking my tour guide was one of the most amazing individuals I’d ever encountered. After all, my guide was in a place where he could not only join student government, religious groups, or sports teams, but also start a crochet/knitting club or whatever else struck his fancy.

Now I’m here. I teach tango (and have even gotten funding from the school to do so). I weld and took up harp. I’m involved in multicultural groups, student publications, and several (mostly theatrical) productions per semester. I have strong connections and friendships with several faculty and staff members, I hold various campus jobs, I’ve built houses in New Orleans with classmates, and I’ve joined in on the midnight Nerf wars in the science building.

I realize that I may have just made myself sound like the most pretentious liberal arts student out there, but the best part is that here, this sort of campus involvement is not considered impressive, but the norm. That’s the one big thing I try to show to my prospies on each tour: the diversity of opportunity.

Whatever level of participation you desire—from only being on the e-mail list, to filling an initiator or leadership role—Grinnell has it. And no matter your interest, whether it is athletic or academic, culinary or cultural—I’ve found that it’s possible to achieve it here. And at the risk of sounding cheesier (yep, it’s possible—sorry), the best part about the wealth of participation opportunities Grinnell offers is the strong community it creates. But regardless of my cheesiness, if you’ve had a tour with me or if you will later on, I hope I succeed(ed) in showing you our tight-knit community, at least on some level. Best of luck with the college decision!

Cait Scherr '09 is a Sociology major from Portland, Oregon.

Love in the Time of Dengue

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Before going abroad, Grinnell students must attend an informational session about all the terrible things that can happen to you (but probably won’t) in order to prepare you to deal with the worst-case scenarios you will most likely never face (but then again, you might). So long before setting foot on an airplane, I listened to Richard Bright, the director of off-campus study, lecture on the dangers of rape, AIDS, armed robberies, kidnappings, murders, freak accidents, natural disasters, and potentially fatal tropical diseases. By the end of the presentation, my head overflowed with so many “what-ifs,” I began to wonder if I really wanted to spend a semester in Costa Rica and Nicaragua at all. After all, Iowa has corn. Central America has malaria.

Luckily, I got over my initial anxieties about crossing U.S. borders, because I ended up having one of those clichéd, amazing-life-changing-I-now-see-the-world-in-a-new-light-and-will-never-be-the-same-again experiences. Last spring I spent a month studying Spanish and globalization in San José, Costa Rica, and while there, I mastered the fine art of crossing the street without getting plowed down by towering buses and aggressive taxis (pedestrians do not have the right of way).

Then it was on to Chagüitillo, Nicaragua, where I volunteered for two wonderful months with a nonprofit community development organization. I spent my days teaching at the local high school and preschool, working in a museum, and learning lots of risque Nica slang words. My nights were spent with my incredible host family, talking, dancing, and rocking chair-ing. And it was in Nicaragua, amidst all the rice-and-beans-eating and sunset-appreciating, when I unexpectedly came face to face with one of Richard Bright’s “what-ifs.”

I got sick.

I woke up one morning with an upset stomach, and assumed I was being punished for drinking a soda chilled with ice made with unfiltered water. I figured the discomfort would fade as the day passed, and went through with my plans to travel with other students in my program to a beautiful organic farm situated way up in the mountains, several miles from paved roads.

As it turns out, I had more than food poisoning.

After a night in the hospital, a shot in the bum, an IV, two blood tests, having to poop and pee into separate cups, and explaining all of my symptoms to Dr. Rosado in my Gringo-accented Spanish, I was diagnosed with dengue fever—a pesky mosquito-borne illness with malaria- like symptoms that make the seemingly impossible expression “constipated diarrhea” possible — as well as a rockin’ intestinal infection.


But I’m pretty stoked to know that one day I’ll be able to tell my future grandkids about the time Grandma Erin fell violently ill while visiting an isolated organic farm in Nicaragua and then had to hike three miles through the mountains in 90 degree weather with all of her travel gear to get to the nearest bus station, and then spend another two hours using a combination of public transportation and hitchhiking to get to the nearest health clinic.

Even though my travel guidebook claims that contracting dengue fever “will put a stop to your fun in Central America like a baseball bat to the head,” getting sick didn’t detract from my time abroad — it enhanced it. True, I was bedridden for quite some time, I got terrible headaches behind my eyes, and my bowels were doing some pretty freaky things I didn’t know they could do. But my, oh, my. What an experience. So many stories to tell! And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Overall, Grinnell has been good to me. I’m appreciative of my five semesters here, and of the two remaining. But my advice to the young ’uns (and the advice that more than 50 percent of all Grinnell students follow) is this: go abroad. Some experiences just can’t be had in Grinnell. Iowa does have corn. And Nicaragua, along with its gorgeous lakes and volcanoes, has dengue. And I’m grateful that in my stint as an undergrad, I’ve had both.

Erin Sindewald '08 is an English major from Orland Park, Illinois.

The Midnight Flight of the Mattress Riders

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)


Beneath Grinnell’s academic veneer, there lies a secret world. In this world, shadowy figures converge by a signal known only to them, unleash weeks of pent-up glee, and vanish in the haze. It is a world we hear of in legend and rumor, a world that keeps its secrets.

Mischief is always best kept secret.

Many tales are told of revels conducted in the dark of night: roller chair races, steam tunnel spelunking, naked kite-flying. Among these, only one brings the giddy thrill of downhill motion to the academic sanctum of the Alumni Recitation Hall: mattress sledding.

The story goes as follows: when the stars align and the wind is right, and when the scent of 10-page papers lies on campus like a slab of rancid butter, a band of rogues assembles. With bravado as their only armor, they leave the dorms with a mattress hefted over their heads. They send out a silent call. In ARH, the fun begins. Moments later, young students chancing to leave the computer lab will be invited to experience delight in its purest form. They will be offered a seat at the top of the stairs, on a mattress going down.

The mattress descends only half a flight, but oh, what a flight it is. Alone or in tightly embracing knots of friends, silent or whooping with joy, the riders dive like falcons down the stairs and glide to a gentle stop in the hall below. The moment a rider dismounts, waiting arms grab the mattress and haul it again to the top, where the next rider will step on.

As with any legend, the revelation opens the door to deeper mystery. Who are these midnight riders? Do they not have homework? Are they the same who run naked in the fields, who roll in chairs down the tile halls of Noyce? Why a mattress, and not a sled or plastic tray? Can more than four safely ride? Perhaps one day the revels will be observed and recorded, and we will know for certain. But certainty brings control, and if the legends are true, the revels thrive on freedom. Perhaps it is best, then, that they remain cloaked in shadow, a mystery to be explored and explored again by each coming generation.

Adam Barrett '08 is an English major from Norman, Oklahoma.

My Mad Love for Photocopying

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 | By Anonymous (not verified)

Most mornings, I work at Carnegie Hall, copying, smiling, and helping my work supervisors and professors with clerical work. I really appreciate the job because it has helped me to get to know a really cool individual I like to call Mr. Copy Machine. My job has also helped me develop a genuine appreciation for photocopying.

I love photocopying. It might sound strange, but having so much association with this impressive machine creates a special bond of friendship and understanding that is for the most part incomprehensible to the average human. Mr. Copy Machine speaks to me. He whines when you feed him paper incorrectly and gives a deep sigh of pride at the end of each copy job.

He knows he is my buddy, and as such I treat him with a great deal of respect. When punching in department codes, I try to do so with the greatest degree of accuracy so he doesn’t get angry. If you accidentally key in inaccurate information, he rejects it instantly. He has no patience for sloppy individuals and values his time quite highly. Thus, if you don’t have your data right, you had best correct it before you start wasting his time. If you know you want your copy job double-sided, sorted, and stapled, you had best not key in double-sided and stapled, because no such job exists for him.

When there is a paper jam, it means you have been irresponsible and have either tugged at copied work before it has fully made its way to the paper tray or have fed in crumpled, unacceptable paper. Mr. Copy Machine is extremely high maintenance. He is, however, very forgiving and at least gives you the opportunity to learn from your mistakes by clearly indicating on his screen where the sheet of paper (or sheets as the case may be) got stuck.

After he alerts you about the paper jam, he then leaves you to your intellectual devices to figure out exactly where you went wrong. Usually, this is such a painful experience that most people try extremely hard not to feed in crumpled paper that does not meet his standards. In the end, it works out quite well for both parties, as Mr. Copy Machine’s users end up being efficient in their use of his offerings and Mr. Copy Machine continues to deliver quality, top-rate photocopies for their use.

I really like Mr. Copy Machine on a personal level because of his kind and understanding nature. After we established a connection, we became so close, we began to understand each other’s moods and energy levels.

For instance, one morning, I got to work extremely tired because I had pulled an all-nighter the night before. I had an urgent copy job from a professor to do and I had to get it done with a near-zero percent energy level. I dragged my weary self to Mr. Copy Machine and hit the start button sloppily. He could tell I was tired. I punched in the department code, copied the first page, and fell asleep, right in front of Mr. Copy Machine. He probably felt sorry for me, as he did everything else himself, all 50 of the copies.

Until today, I don’t know how my copy buddy got that job done, but somehow he finished and gave his signature satisfactory beep. I woke up and smiled. I inspected his work. It was as perfect as he is.

I am really grateful to the Carnegie Academic Support Office for granting me the unique opportunity to develop such a beautiful friendship with Mr. Copy Machine. I encourage every prospective Grinnellian to try to develop a meaningful relationship with the nearest copy machine they find available on campus. Hopefully, they will be able to experience the beauty of his humanity as a machine with values of efficiency, mutual respect, and professionalism.

Nmachi Jidenma ’09 is an Economics major from Lagos, Nigeria.