I spent this past week as a person who the Office of Residential Life consistently referred to in their emails as “displaced.” While central campus got power back sometime on Monday, I was not allowed to sleep in my dorm until Thursday night, a full 6 days after the storm. We had neither heat nor electricity in Marsh. (NB: This is extremely rare – if you’re a first year and interested in living up on the School on a Hill’s very own Hill, don’t let this past week, or your lame central-campus friends dissuade you!)
Below is a reconstructed log (of sorts) of my experience this week, which I feel is an unusual snapshot of Amherst in a slow-moving crisis:
Saturday – black-out blackout due to a whiteout? Anyone? (h/t Party RC K)
Sunday – wake up to find myself at Zu in a Red Riding Hood costume. Spent the first hour of my day back at Marsh willing the microwave to work and heat up my frozen Amy’s breakfast burrito.
As it turns out, hung-over desperation does not work well with the cosmos. It took a solid couple of hours for me to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t get any work done. My phone was dead, the house was loud, and I didn’t even have internet to download my problem sets.
FINALLY our very own handy-lesbian magicked a fire into the fireplace. Then the day really started – everyone pooled resources and we amassed a collection of tea, ramen, and breakfast burritos (all mine, obviously, because no one else is weird enough to have that in their freezer…), and lots of beer and proceeded to have an all-hill sing-along and beer pong tournament.
When I went to Val later that night (ramen was cool for breakfast and lunch, not really doing it for me by dinnertime), it looked like a refugee camp in a first world country. Confused looking kids huddling around Macbooks and warm food. This was just about the time that I was first called a displaced person. Night one of living away from home and shuttling my stuff back and forth.
At first I thought it was just a sleepover…
Monday: I was staying with a close friend of mine who is an RC on campus. She’s always “sooooo busy” and I’m always “sooooo busy” and we just never get to see each other. But since I has slept in her room, it allowed us to have that roommate intimacy (the first person you see in the morning, last person you see at night) that you can normally only have with one person a year.
Tuesday: They fucking started classes again and I was still sleeping on someone’s fucking carpet. WHAT the HELL. No chance of me studying. And not because I was being lazy, either. The schlep back and forth from frosh quad to marsh just to get clothing was draining. The carpet and sleeping bag was not ideal. It became hard for me to empathize with the situation, and the workers, and the faculty members who didn’t have heat either, and the stores in town losing business…
I gave up and had my friend from Northampton pick me up and save me from the shitty-ness that was my life. The most notable thing about this was not the amazing tofu scramble or hot tub at her house, but the experience of showing her my dorm during the black out.
Wednesday –I hadn’t actually seen my fellow Marshians in a few days. I had sort of created a second group of friends with my host’s residents. I had spent the whole week getting to know my host and another friend on frosh quad much, much better. Okay, so I didn’t have a home. That just let me feel more comfortable asking people for things. Every time ever that I’ve finished a lab in Merrill, my first instinct is to pass out on the nearest possible bed. This week, since I didn’t have my own bed, it was totally cool for me to take a nap in Chuck Pratt while my friend was at practice. And there’s something really intimate and comforting about feeling like you can sleep in someone else’s bed. Plus, I was finally getting used to sleeping on the carpet.
Thursday – at 630ish someone in the library told me that Tyler had power. Pretty soon, I was being driven back to Marsh and walking into my brightly lit, warm room.
At Amherst (maybe everywhere) because of the cold weather and the immense amounts of pressure exerted on us to succeed, I feel like we become very stuck being whoever we think we’re supposed to be. When was the last time you honestly went to a lecture that didn’t have to do with a class you were taking? Or talked to a random underclassman that you thought was cool?
This past week, while at moments miserable, allowed me to reshuffle a little bit. I thrive off of new friendships – every time you become friends with someone new, they get to meet you, and actually see you, wherever you currently are (as a person) because they don’t have the context of longevity.
Being physically (and, lets face, really fucking emotionally) displaced this week, gave me certain freedoms that I don’t normally have. It broke down certain social boundaries in the way that only crises can…