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A Cold Night in Hell

By Joshua M. Sharfstein

IT WAS cold in my room last night. Very cold. In fact, it was so cold that my books were hurling themselves off my shelves begging for the cutesy bookcovers I had given up in third grade.

So before I got into bed, I put on a pair of extra-thick long underwear. And some blue flannel pajamas. And a pair of thick wool socks. And a hat. And a scarf.

I looked like the child of Arnold Schwarzenegger and a Smurf.

Then, I crawled underneath a pile of blankets and went to sleep.

I had a dream.

I dreamed of my nights camping on the Alaskan tundra. I dreamed of fending off packs of wolves by lying very still and pretending I was an icicle. It all seemed so real. It was just like I was back there...

I woke up with a start and realized that I have never, in reality, spent any nights camping on the Alaskan tundra.

By 3 a.m., I began to empathize with frozen juice bars.

At 7 a.m., the sun came out.

Rays of heat began to stream through my windows. And the room got warmer. And warmer. And hotter. And hotter. By about 10 a.m.--when the pounding heat woke me up--the temperature in my room was approximately 90 degrees. Celcius.

My first reaction, after gasping for breath, was to think I had finally left this world and had gone straight to hell--where I was being punished for sitting in section next to the teaching fellow and doodling Supermans throughout my English section. ("I was tired!" I tried to protest. "Someone had been humming the Superman theme!")

My second reaction was to thrash about in the hope that I could kick off my blankets, pajamas, long underwear, hat and scarf.

I failed pathetically.

I'M NOT a complainer. With the situation in the Gulf and the need to conserve energy, I have no problem with Harvard's flirting with the bare minimum temperature allowed by Massachusetts state law, and occasionally ignoring it altogether.

To the contrary, I've been thinking of ways to take advantage of the temperature extremes. Living through such adversity is a skill, and, like all skills, it can be put on my resume.

Leverett Towers. Survived brutal cold and intense heat in defense of American patriotic ideals. Sacrificed health, sanity, thesis for country. September 1990-June 1991. 24 hours/day.

Of course, not everyone has reacted as I have to the weather. My physics major roommate has begun ground-breaking research on a thermostat-controlled pajamas. My actor roommate uses the weather to inspire soliloquies set in the Arctic North. And my humanities roommate divides his time between exploring the ontological implications of "cold" and using the lack of "artificial heat" as a creative pick-up line.

I just look toward the future. I envision a time--perhaps in the not so distant future--when I am captured behind enemy lines and forced to wear inordinate amounts of clothing in a room whose temperature is controlled by evil forces more capricious than Harvard Facilities Maintenance.

I think I wouldn't break down. I wouldn't talk.

I could last.

For about a week.

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