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The Freshman Year Top Ten: The Final Installment

September 9th, 2010 dpdeco13

You know the feeling you get when you wake up on the morning of an important day? Your eyes snap open when the first note of your alarm clock knocks on your eardrum. You’re on your feet, wide awake, ready to go. That’s how I would have felt this morning if the alarm had gone off around 10 instead of 7. Despite the fact that I wore my snooze button down until it too was exhausted, though, today was indeed a very important day. Today was the day that I would be publishing the final installment of the Freshman Year Top Ten. One internship orientation, three classes, 65 pages of reading, and an info session later, it’s finally time. As promised, here are the top four moments of my freshman year at Holy Cross.

#4 St. Patrick’s Day

I’m not Irish. I’m Belgian, Polish, and a few other things. I’ve got friends who are Italian, Scottish, French; I know people on campus from Uganda and Tokyo. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Holy Cross is a super-heterogeneous cultural melting pot, but we do have a fair amount of diversity on campus…except for one day of the year. On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish.

Last year the big day fell on a Wednesday, but the atmosphere was one of a kickaround summer afternoon. Students, professors, faculty and staff alike injected a little extra relaxation into their lifestyles, and though the classroom is a place for the collisions and fusions of the greatest minds in all of academia, this was truly a day to let loose and have some fun.

I feel like in this restless time of global climate control I can’t go a day or two without hearing the term “Going Green.” But until last St. Patrick’s Day I had no idea what that could actually mean. I’ve been to dozens of Boston Celtics games in my life, and I’m still not sure I’ve ever seen as much green on one day as I did on March 17th, 2010.

To be completely honest it was probably a stupid idea for me to blog about this, because I can sprinkle all the spices in my adjective kitchen on this memory and it still won’t give the same taste as the actual experience (corned beef and cabbage, anyone?). So am I wasting your time right now with a “You had to be there moment”? Yes. But also, no.

Yes because, well, yeah, you kinda had to be there. But at the same time, no. I feel like I usually do a pretty decent job of decorating my stories and giving you, the loyal readership, a complete picture of each story. So if I’m struggling to splash my wordpaint across the canvas this time around, that should be a pretty significant indicator that this is the type of event you don’t want to miss when it rolls around in the spring.

Just trust me.

#3 Spring Weekend

Probably the most looked-forward-to event of the school year, Spring Weekend leaves itself some monster shoes to fill every year. I would always hear about it, but as a freshman I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the whole concept. How could one weekend be so superior to all the others? What could possibly separate it from the rest of the pack? Why was every upperclassman telling me to have my homework due Monday finished by Thursday afternoon?

I was confused, but I took the advice of my elders, banged out a thirteen page paper on Wednesday night, finished up all my reading on Thursday morning, and freed up my schedule. Good call.

There were literally too many festivities for me to remember that weekend. Dunk tanks? Yep. Soapbox derby? Yep. Easy Street packed with vendors, booths, inflatable pools? Yep. Fireworks? Yep. Drake performing in the Hart Center? Yep.

Sometimes when I was in high school I would see a movie or a TV show about college and it looked too fun to be real. I would think, ‘No way that’s what it’s really like.’ And for the most part, it isn’t. But on Spring Weekend, it is. There’s a reason that the library is packed on Wednesday and Thursday before Spring Weekend. If you’re still wondering if one weekend is really worth jamming five days’ worth of work into a day or two, let me be clear: the answer is yes. If there is one weekend that you want to be outside, carefree, sipping in the first few drops of the summer sun, it’s Spring Weekend.

#2 Forest Haunt Road

One of my closest friends at school is a girl named Cory Beck. Cory is from New Jersey but her family has a ski house in Vermont that they use in the winter. When we were dismissed from classes for Winter Break, my friends and I decided collectively that we should plan a get together for some point during our month vacation. Cory and her parents were generous enough to offer up the ski house as a location.

All of the details were worked out and I hopped in Charlie’s car on the day of the trip to carpool. We both had to go a day late because of prior engagements, so we planned on arriving to a house full of our friends. Charlie and I worked out a deal: he would drive his car if I brought my GPS to help us navigate and if I helped out with gas and snack money. Simple enough, we thought.

When the GPS told us we were within three miles of our destination we perked up and started to concentrate. We turned down the music, as if that would help us recognize the streets in this town we had never visited. At about 2.6 miles, the two-laned, well-paved and well-painted road narrowed. Then the yellow lines disappeared. At 1.3, the pavement turned to dirt. We began to grow skeptical. I flipped through the pages of memories in my head and tried to remember if I had somehow offended the GPS.  It seemed that my “navigational partner” was exacting some sort of revenge on me and Charlie.

It was about one in the afternoon, but as we became more and more disoriented and ventured further down this road that was quickly becoming enclosed by pine trees, light was filtered out and life got a whole lot darker. Nevertheless, the GPS told us we were just 300 yards away from our destination. 260 yards out, the road ended. It became a snowbank. I glanced out my window up at the tree next to the car. There was a street sign that indicated the lump of powder in front of us was actually a road.

Forest Haunt Road. How appropriate. This was beginning to feel like a low budget horror movie. But there was no room to turn around, and we were so close…

Charlie took a deep breath, looked at me, nodded, and pressed the accelerator to the floor. We shot over the bank and exploded in a cannonball of powder. The car was determined, Charlie was focused, I was laughing uncontrollably at the sheer ridiculousness of the scenario. We came over a small hill. For a moment I truly believed that we were badass enough to defeat Forest Haunt Road with sheer willpower.

That moment was very brief. Roughly one half-second later I was getting out the passenger side door and walking to the back of the car to start pushing. The car wouldn’t budge. We were stuck. No, let me be more specific. We were REALLY stuck. We were “call all of our friends to come help and we probably still won’t be able to move this car” stuck.

We tried to wedge some sticks and logs under the tires to create traction, but our efforts were futile. We started hearing scurrying in the woods around us. If a film crew had stepped out from behind the trees and told us to get ready for the murder scene, I would not have thought twice. Sometimes life seems too fake, too scripted. This was one such moment.

I decided to complete the last leg of the journey on foot, find the house, assemble a rescue team, and get this problem solved. Enough was enough. Unfortunately, the windchill was around zero and the houses had been renumbered so the GPS was useless. I called Loftus, but I had no service. This was becoming a disaster. I finally reached him and asked for him to bring help. Everyone else was out skiing.

I know what you’re thinking. ‘How could they be skiing at a time like this?!’ I was wondering the same thing. But rest assured, I’m here writing this blog, so you know that I ultimately lived to tell the tale. It’s like in the Harry Potter books when you think Harry might die, but then you realize it’s just the first book out of seven so he’s obviously going to make it.

In what turned out to be the greatest reversal of fortune I’ve ever been a part of, Charlie’s mom had a friend who had a friend who happened to live in the same town that we were stuck in, and this friend of my friend’s mother’s friend just so happened to tow cars part-time in the winter. A few phone calls and a ten minute wait later, we were done with Forest Haunt Road forever.

To this very day I still have trouble believing that all of this ridiculousness happened on the same day. It felt absurd then, and it feels absurd now, but I definitely won’t be forgetting that experience any time soon.

#1 Loftus vs. Tom: Two Men Enter, One Man Explodes

Sometimes life just takes our breath away. Sometimes it simply renders us speechless. Sometimes, moments transcend greatness and reach an unparalleled level of awesomeness. Such a moment not only took the top spot on this countdown, it conquered it. This moment is a model for all other moments for the rest of history. When I turn 80 years old and reflect on my freshman year of college I probably won’t remember getting destroyed in intramural floor hockey. There might be a shard of a memory of a food fight in Kimball. I might be able to give you a detail or two about someone putting packing peanuts in my bed one night. Every other item on this countdown was either fun, interesting, ridiculous, or memorable in some other way. But the number one spot in the Top Ten of Freshmen Year… unforgettable. To quote Neil Patrick Harris, it was “Legen…wait for it…dary.”

Let me be upfront and say right now that the details of this story are insignificant. For the sake of storytelling, however, here is the general layout:

It was a Saturday night. I was in Wheeler with a group of friends (all guys to begin with, the girls came later). Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. There was music, we were on the second floor in our friend Steve’s room, people were relaxed, playing Xbox, conversing, laughing, the usual.

Seems pretty straightforward, which is why it’s so incredible that such an extraordinary moment sprouted from such average soil.

At approximately 11 p.m. the girls showed up at Steve’s door. To the best of my recollection, there were three of them. But like I said, the details are not important. At this point, we’ll switch over to Danny-cam to give you the complete picture of my experience.

I look around the room. I’m a little bored, but I don’t want to give up on the night. There are a couple of animated conversations going on around me, but nothing I’m interested in. I like this song…who is this singer? Should I ask someone? I don’t want to look like I don’t know anything about cool music. Did I wear deodorant tonight? …Yeah, I did. Did anyone see me discreetly sniff my armpit?

WAIT! What’s that? Dan and Tom look mad at each other! I need to get closer. What are they talking about? I think it’s about the girls.

Oh my god! What is Dan doing!?


Wow! Loftus never gets upset…wait…woah…no way…


Okay so let’s go back and put it all together. Dan and Tom were talking, the girls came in and a minute or two later and Dan and Tom started arguing. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Dan is ordinarily the least confrontational kid you’ll ever meet. When he started to raise his voice, my ears perked up and I located the problem and moved closer. And then, out of nowhere, Dan was screaming. It made no sense. It was like the first time I heard my mom quote Kesha. It was just wrong. My mom should never talk about the Po-Po shutting us down.

The yelling was one thing. Very strange, yes, but not impossible. What came next in the “…wait…woah…no way…” section, now that defied reality. During the argument, Dan was holding a can of Coke. It was almost new and almost completely full. When he finished yelling at Tom, Dan spiked the can into the ground like he had just scored a Super Bowl winning touchdown. The liquid came exploding out of the can and shot straight into the air. It even took the exact shape of an exclamation point, the perfect cherry on top of the argument sundae. I’ve never seen Old Faithful in person, but I can’t imagine it being any more magnificent than the Coke that came jetting out of that can. The liquid careened off the ceiling (I don’t know how it didn’t burst through the tile). It splattered all of us in the face. It covered the window. That can was like Santa’s bag, we were all wondering so how much could fit in so small a container…I swear that can held gallons upon gallons of liquid.

Dan slammed the door on his way out, a nice touch. Tom looked baffled. Steve dropped to his knees without a word and began wiping up the spill. I looked all around until I finally found my jaw (it had dropped all the way to the floor). Time stood still.

About two minutes later I regained my ability to form words.

“That. Was. AWESOME!”

And that was freshman year.

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