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Fantasizing About Infamy

By Sarah A. Rodriguez

I like the kiosks in the Yard. I'm not usually bothered (and am often a little amused) by their neon-colored existences. But the stress of being a Harvard student--between papers, finals and trying to find a decent party on Saturday night--can really get to you if you're not careful. Anything can become a victim. Even an innocent kiosk.

During this past finals period, while trudging to Lamont with a sourcebook in my backpack and a lit cigarette in one hand (not that I smoke), I paused to glare at the closest thing to me--in this case, a kiosk. Even during this hibernation period of student activities, it was aglow with neon flyers. They all irked me. But what almost sent me over the edge was the way Jennifer Love Hewitt's face smirked at me from one of them.

I hate Jennifer Love Hewitt. I always have, I always will and I take blows for it on a daily basis. But somehow, in the midst of my Historical Studies hell, it occurred to me that I didn't have to take it anymore. I could simply burn her face out with my cigarette.

No, I thought. I could take it one step further. I could light the poster on fire.

No, wait! I thought again. I'll go another step further. I'll light the whole kiosk on fire.

Now that finals are over and I've nearly regained my sanity, I can look back on that moment of near-arson and shudder to think about what I almost did. Setting any piece of Harvard property on fire would probably cost more in legal fees than the entire Kennedy clan could afford, and that's nothing compared to what would happen if a nearby building also became inflamed. Besides the money issue, however, I'll play Girl Scout leader for a moment--setting things that aren't yours on fire is wrong, and shouldn't be done.

But let's imagine for a second, just a brief fleeting moment of fancy, what would have happened, had my lighter and I sent that infernal kiosk into a blaze of glory:

Busted. Anyone stupid enough to set a kiosk on fire would undoubtedly be caught. Even if I wasn't actually sighted lighting the thing up, with my luck, my scarf would catch fire as I would be trying to run away from the scene of the crime. In addition, all of my closest friends, my favorite TF's, my mother, my grandmother and my hairstylist would be coming out of Grafton Street just in time to see me and scream, "Hey, Sarah! Why's your scarf on fire?"

Boarded. After getting inevitably caught, I would be dragged in front of the Ad Board. I would then have to suffer through a mixture, furious glares from people screaming, "How dare you destroy Harvard property!," uncontrollable giggles from people snickering, "How stupid could you be to set a kiosk on fire?" and rampant rage from people hollering, "How can you hate Jennifer Love Hewitt?"

Glorified. The fun part about committing a stupid crime is that the media learns to love you. I would become the darling of the Boston Globe, my hometown newspaper the Monitor, and every supermarket tabloid in existence. The Crimson would practically circulate around me for at least a semester. Headlines would range from, "Psycho Senior Holds Kiosk Roast" to "Rodriguez protests, 'I'm Still Not Sorry!" to "Hewitt Visits Harvard in Anti-Arson Platform." Editorial letters that either give shame to my very existence or staunchly fight for my rights to burn would run nonstop. Gradually, a cult following would be built around me. The members would sing songs of peace outside the Ad Board office as the people inside groaned and wished they had never volunteered for such a thankless position.

Petrified. The worst part about committing said crime--the attention backfires. My fellow students would nudge each other, laughing and pointing at me as I pass by. I would become an urban legend prefrosh hosts would tell their young'uns about. People would become terrified to smoke with me. But worst of all, I would become the butt of bad kiosk puns: "The kiosks aren't the only things that are smokin'! Come see the Din and Tonics, Friday night at 8 p.m.!"

Branded for Life. Perhaps after a few years, the whole thing would blow over. I could get a job where the boss didn't suspiciously glare at me if I commented about how much I hate neon-colored paper. I could eat in the smoking section of a restaurant without having a waiter usher me out, saying, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but we've been instructed to never let you light an open flame in this establishment." My mother would start talking to me again. I could become successful, maybe even famous. But even if I won the Pulitzer Prize, I would still be introduced as, "The Pulitzer-Prize winning writer who once set a kiosk on fire."

Sure, the initial joy of seeing all those neon posters go up in flames would be exciting--for about one second. Sure, becoming a media darling would be piles of fun--in theory. But the embarrassment and the humiliation that would follow for years to come would be almost unbearable. My friends would all but disown me. No significant other would ever fully trust me. Student organizations would make fun of me in their posters.

All this, just for hating Jennifer Love Hewitt. Sarah A. Rodriguez '99 is an English concentrator in Winthrop House. Her column will appear on alternate Mondays.

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