My bedroom this year is comparatively spacious, passably clean, and — by some miracle bestowed upon me by the squat, usually vindictive gods of on-campus housing draws — it mercifully faces an inner courtyard.
Last year, I endured the noisome wrath of Elm Street beyond my bedroom window. Any of you who has ever lived with a bedroom window facing Elm Street may empathize with my plight; those of you who have not endured such an obtrusive neighbor cannot vilipend the emotional injury such a situation propagates.
For the first three weeks of school last year, my dreams were set to the beat of “We are the union, the mighty mighty union.” Regardless of my political sympathies, I struggled to find a silver lining in being wrested from a sound sleep at 8 a.m. by the sound of 400 strangers shouting in mind-numbing unison endless repetitions of “What do we want? Contracts! When do we want them? Now! (Repeat).” Because my room was on the first floor, the marchers would pass literally 15 feet from where I lay, curled in a fetal position, attempting to conjure forth comforting memories of the womb. After week three I found myself rocking softly in the shower while humming the lilting rhythm of the “Mighty mighty union” song — a pitiful moment of self-realization that I blamed on 21 consecutive days of sleep deprivation.
But it’s not last year’s union strikes with which I quarrel here. It’s Elm Street in general. It’s the 18-wheel trucks that idle outside my window. It’s the cars without mufflers that rev their engines in an attempt to reach mach-2 between the red lights at York and High streets. It’s the kids who make full use of their $700 stereo systems complete with two subwoofers and a bullhorn while playing the latest TRL countdown at decibels worthy of a concert in Madison Square Garden — at four in the morning. It’s the garbage trucks and their mechanical heaves and sighs. It’s the gentle peal of the crosswalk indicator in front of ABP. It’s the obsessive-compulsive Yale kids who, having already gone for a run up Science Hill by 7 a.m., shout to their roommates on the fourth floor to “throw them their ID.” I hated them, above all. Their early-morning productivity not only curtailed my much-needed sleep but elicited guilt at my own barefaced lethargy.
This year, while happily spared from the turbulence of Elm Street, I find myself wrestling with a new kind of noise. Because my bedroom is on the second floor above an archway on a main pedestrian thoroughfare connecting Toad’s, Old Campus, God Quad and all late-night food venues, I hear virtually everything that is shared in confidence between drunken friends between the hours of 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. I have traded the thick rattling of souped-up Hondas for late-night gossip; I have exchanged the monotonous idling of trucks for sordid tales of who was caught with the roommate’s sister.
As the newest sovereign of gossip in the greater Elm Street area, I have not decided whether I will use my powers for good or evil. In several incidences, I have been tempted to turn out my lights and whisper advice in my most ominous voice from my window above: “Dump him — duuump hiiiim.” I’ve also entertained the idea of just reading aloud the cryptic counsel provided by fortune cookies and magic eight balls with a bad Russian accent: “Your destiny lies in metal detecting at Lighthouse Point; as for your love life, signs point to Yes.”
My late-night sojourns through the psyches of drunken Yale students have, however, largely disappointed my appetite for scandal. In any given night, there are a couple of tales of misplaced kisses and a few accounts of torrid romps in the new Lilly’s Pad, but, on the whole, Yale kids have remained impressively chaste — Saturday nights notwithstanding. Yet there has been one unifying theme in all of the discussions I have had the opportunity to eavesdrop upon, and that is that each of us sustains a fairly impressive level of nerdiness in normal conversation. No matter how much we saturate our minds with cheap beer and pop music each weekend, the Ivy League in all of us seems to claw its way to the surface.
Last Wednesday, returning a bit early from Senior Night at BAR, I was able to overhear a slew of drunken conversations from my bedroom perch, over four of which involved references to famous literary texts, philosophy and international politics. One kid, clearly verklempt by his lady-companion’s inability to walk on her own after a long night of dollar-drafts, exclaimed “Frailty, thy name is woman!” I laughed aloud from my little hideaway, wondering what Hamlet had in common with two drunken kids in a faux-gothic courtyard. A short while later, two boisterous boys stumbled their way back home, one of whom was commenting happily on Bush’s post-convention rebound in the polls. The other responded curtly: “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.” This proverb was listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as having originated in 1576 in the autobiography of T. Whythorne (“That which iz on bodies meat iz an otherz poison.”) I wondered if he knew.
A few days later, I overheard another conversation between three girls clad in mini-skirts and clip-clopping high heels. They were discussing the war in Iraq, when one of the three girls abruptlty exclaimed that “only dead people know when there is no more war.” While she botched Plato’s actual words (“only the dead have seen the end of war”), the gist of her statement remains intact. I was amazed by the fact that Yale is a place where late-night revelry and nerdiness are not mutually exclusive.
While I have to admit that a little part of me misses the bustle of Elm Street late afternoons, I’d gladly exchange the wail of ambulances for a few late-night literary allusions. Give me Plato, give me Shakespeare, but let’s keep the 8 a.m. raucous on the Elm Street side.
Haley Edwards is a “Mighty, mighty, wunion.” (OK, we know that one was bad.)