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A Dubious Welcome--to the Quad

By John E. Stafford

Some people fear the return of school, the end of the idyllic and lazy days of summer. But after three weeks of explaining to friends that I haven't dropped out of school and Harvard just starts late, I was more than ready to return.

The delightful part about sophomore life is having absolutely no idea where or with whom you will live. In the spring, dear Harvard gives us the privilege of making some suggestions on these issues. But after my first year here, I became a hardened cynic about my likely fate.

The few communications I had received from North House over the summer assured me that my nightmares (and dreams) of a random, forced house transfer wouldn't be realized. More worrisome were my fears about sharing a double with a first-year archenemy or surviving a triple with the editors of Peninsula and Perspective.

Though things in Cambridge looked pretty much the same as last year, quite a bit had changed. Much to my father's chagrin, we couldn't repeat last year's successful race to be the first car in the Yard. Instead, I awoke in Albany, New York on that fateful Friday to sheets of rain outside. A leaky trunk and a bicycle strapped to the car, along with the prospect of sopping computers, books, and clothes when I moved in, pretty much ruined the day. By the time I arrived and was sentenced to Jordan, I barely flinched.

At least, I told myself, now I had an address and a phone--though no phone number. After I put in a quick call to information to find out my own number, I could get business cards and stationery printed right here in Cambridge, instead of back home for half the price.

The secretary at my church thought I was lying when it was September and I claimed not to have my school address.

It would seem reasonable that Cambridge would try to be nice to people moving in. Half the population leaves town for the summer, after all.

I was wrong. Parking tickets are actually the Cambridge equivalent of a visitors tax. When I came to visit from high school, I got two tickets while standing in the admissions office. This time, we saw one guy racing to refill his meter while the meter checker stood a few cars away. She cackled and moved straight to his car.

Iwent to the Yard Saturday to watch the first-years move in and to check out the renovations on last year's room in Hollis. On a whim, I knocked on my old door, introduced myself to the confused first-year inside, and told him his room was great. I'm jealous. He gets renovations; I get a snooker table. How do you play snooker, anyway?

The unwritten rule of Harvard storage is that the person who piled over twenty boxes in the doorway will not show up until Registration. The same person will also have two sofas and a desk smack in the middle of the furniture room.

Finding out what to do with the stuff once unearthed was a little harder. With the memory of last year's large but spartanly furnished room still fresh in my mind, I had wheeled and dealed during the closing days of last year. My couch will justfit in my room--if I get rid of the bed.

It seems only appropriate that the shuttles did not run during my first week in the Quad.

How else were sophomores supposed to become accustomed to either the glazed eye trudge or the slightly suicidal bike ride from the Quad to anywhere? Apparently Harvard feels Quadlings have as little interest in reaching civilization before school starts as they will on weekends and holidays during the year.

A week without the benefit of Harvard University Dining Services can do strange things to people. I adopted the vitamin in the morning, plenty of carbonated fluids, and a decent dinner plan for my diet. And for the first time, I envied the first-years crammed into the Union.

Those who tried to convince me that sophomore life in the Quad wasn't that bad tried dozens of dubious consolations. My personal favorite is "It's more like purgatory than hell."

Thanks for the welcome.

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