I’m no prophet, but when it comes to Yale, you can’t let yourself have any false hopes. There is a constant you can always count on: nomadic hordes of howling drunks with their minds bent on destruction.
It was on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday (observed) that Yale University was hit by its fourth snow shower of the season. No one was surprised except for the global warming conspiracy mongers, but in these troubled times, the global warming conspiracy mongers are surprised by everything. Even for the cynical, the snow must have been a pleasant surprise — it was thick and wet and perfect for packing. It blanketed the trees, gave Nathan Hale a winter fedora, and wrapped Theodore Dwight Woolsey in a cool mink stole. It would have been the kind of snow that muffled sounds and made everyone a little bit melancholy and pensive in an inside, warm, and happy kind of way. But instead of peacefully watching Old Campus fill up with snow, the builders were out in force.
The day was spectacular: Old Campus became every “Calvin and Hobbes” reader’s fantasy playground. Some snowmen were fifteen, or maybe even twenty, feet tall. The sculptors rolled snowbases ten feet in diameter, then spent long hours building snowramps large enough to help push eight-foot snowtorsos into position. Some lonely person built two fornicating fourteen foot snowmen. Someone even lonelier recreated Michelangelo’s David. Present were the rakishly stylish snowbowlerhatman, snowcat, and even snowmanonabench. Snowmanonabench was a particular crowd pleaser: there were lines for pictures. You could say we had a plethora of snowmen.
However, despite the heartwarming beauty of the scene, despite the disarming peace of the soft snowfall, I was not so naïve as to agree with the generally overheard (and disgusting) opinion: “This is what happens when smart people play together in the snow.” I knew mother Yale had more to throw at us–I settled down to wait in the cold. Plus this wasn’t just any holiday’s eve, this was Tequila Sunday.
They appeared first in small groups of three or four, laughing idly as they tossed snowballs at the heads of the larger snowmen. These earliest groups were just passing through, in transit between Silliman and Branford probably, and were mostly satisfied by the quick fix of seeing the snowmen’s faces crumble. The later groups were more ambitious. Despite their massive height advantage, the snowmen were too slow and clumsy to put up much of a fight. Some few snowgiants refused to be moved but the destructors were too far immersed in their prolonged drunken infancy to be much troubled. They sat happily in the snow, firing snowballs off at a steady clip.
The destructors soon learned to go for the weaker thorax section, scooping out the wet snowflesh and hurling it at each other in gory victory celebrations. They coordinated flanking attacks, battering the snowmen from all sides, soon sending them to an icy grave. The destructors worked with the same energy as the creators — after all, I am not the first to point out that destruction is a form of creation.
At some point I made it to bed. When I walked on Old Campus the next day, none of the large giants of the previous night remained. Like in the aftermath of the K/T boundary event, some few smaller snowspecies, better camouflaged and more adaptable than their larger cousins had survived, mostly by hiding out under the eaves of that gate (with all the little sculptures of academic extracurricular activities in it) that’s bad luck if you walk through it before you graduate.
I have had frequent encounters with large groups destroying things at Yale, certainly more frequent than my encounters with any large Yale groups creating collective public art. The Harvard-Yale Game weekend is always a good weekend for horde-spotting, so are tap nights. People push their bodies to their vomiting points. People even write all over the desks. Perhaps this Jekyll and Hyde nature of Yale students — creators by day, destructors by night — is a simple way of maintaining a spiritual balance at this university. It is simply a modern incarnation of Clothos and Atropos or an expression of sarvam anityam. The overworked students with pent-up steam wage a war for all time against the creatively stifled.
I don’t really want to pick sides; both armies were nice. And, sorry to all of you whose snowstatues were smashed by drunk people, but you’ve got to admit it’s funny.