THEY WERE BUILDING tents, setting up chairs, polishing medals, planning special meals, looking for corporate sponsors, unfurling banners, rationing out hotel rooms, rounding up the international press corps for briefings and, most of all, selling a hell of a lot of official merchandise.
Preparations for Barcelona? The Republican National Convention in Houston? The next Murphy Brown episode?
No, these were all just part of the endless arrangements for this year's Commencement. The same one that just got so boring you picked up The Crimson.
Anyway, all the fuss could make a mere junior like myself jealous. Or even sick. In fact, all the fuss took my breath away--literally. I think I am the first casualty of Commencement 1992.
WHEN I WAS a first-year living in the Yard, my only complaint about Commencement was the Facilities Maintenance crew, which woke me at ungodly hours each morning by banging stakes into the ground and snapping open thousands of chairs. The same uncomfortable ones you're sitting in now, trying desperately to look interested in the prime minister of Norway.
This year, though, it was the grass that got to me. Usually, the minute green breaks through winter's bleakness, I run for the nearest air-conditioned building and stay there until hayfever season is over.
But I didn't have much choice about it this year. I woke up one morning to finish my junior essay and, as I leaned over to turn on my computer, I noticed a truck in the middle of the Quad. When I put on my glasses, I saw that it wasn't a truck. It was a tank. Seriously.
Now the "Quad Howl" (the suburban version of the River Houses' pre-exam primal scream) can sometimes get out of hand (bandies overtook the roof of Cabot House this year), but I figured this tank wasn't from the National Guard. No, its real purpose was more pressing. The tank was circling unceasingly and shooting grass seed from a huge cannon about 40 feet in the air.
I made the mistake of digging into Jonathan Swift's political satire without realizing that my window was open. By the time I closed the book and peeked in the mirror, my face sort of resembled the Pillsbury Dough Girl's. With bad acne.
I started popping Seldane like candy.
I went to University "Health" Services, and as I inhaled gobs of steroids, I tried to start a grassroots movement among other sneezers, wheezers and snifflers. Together, I tried to tell them, we could turn the tide, out law the blue-green mush they used to spread the grass seed. It was hard to relay my message across a barrier of tissues and mucous. My nurse said something about a lost cause, but it was all a drugged haze.
So like any aggressive pre-professional Harvard student, I went straight to the top. I called the director of facilities Maintenance.
"Hi," I began breathlessly. "I'm allergic to the stuff you spray on the grass."
"You sprayed grass seed on the Quad yesterday, and now I'm sick. I want to know if you are going to spray any more this year." I added a couple of anguished, phlegm-filled hacks for emphasis.