Jeepers Creepers

I am not a suspicious person

“My name is Eric Kester and I am not a creeper.” This is what I had to explain to the police when they entered my room last week, as they responded to reports of a “suspicious person” entering my entryway. Apparently someone called the police when they saw me “piggyback” into Winthrop because I had left my swipecard in my room.

Given the recent instances of outsiders sneaking into Harvard houses, I can understand this particular student’s concern and her decision to call the police on me. I have to admit, though, that I am still a little confused why I was mistaken for a creeper. I just figured that normally people are not suspicious of a college-aged kid entering a dorm at 1 p.m. on a school day, wearing a “Harvard ‘08” sweatshirt and carrying a book about deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs.

I shouldn’t be so harsh, though, as I suppose there were a few things about me that may have raised a red flag in her mind. After all, I was just waiting there by the door, oblivious to the peanut butter smeared on my face from lunch and muttering to myself about the state of the Red Sox relief pitching, while eating old pretzels directly out of my coat pocket. I also was sporting a beard that, through no other reason but my own utter laziness, had grown to epic proportions.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “I talk to myself sometimes! I, too, hit my face on occasion while eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! Pretzels are delicious! How can I be sure that I won’t be mistaken for a creeper, like you were?” Luckily for you, it really is not hard to avoid the label of a “suspicious person.”

All it takes is a little effort to get yourself out there so that people in the Harvard community will recognize you. This starts in the classroom. By making sure that you are an active participant in the Harvard academic scene, you can help ensure that you will be recognized as a legitimate, non-creepy member of the community. Unfortunately, this involves actually going to class.

Every time a midterm rolls around, I am alarmed at how the size of the class magically doubles, now full of suspicious people who I’ve never seen even once before at previous lectures yet who seem to be taking the test. You should also participate a fair amount in sections, so your classmates and teachers get to know you on a first-name basis. Good class participation is important, as it can be beneficial for both your grade and your reputation as a non-creepshow. Plus it can be really embarrassing if your entire section doesn’t even know you. One time I walked into my section and my TF asked me if I was lost. It was six weeks into the semester.

I hate to say it, but you also need to be aware of your appearance if you don’t want people to think you’re a creeper. I know it’s cold out and those were a nice pair of gloves that you found on the subway, but the bloodstains on them might make some people think twice before swiping you into the entryway. As I alluded to earlier, make sure you don’t have an unruly beard that looks sketchy. This is especially true if you are a girl.

The most important place to establish yourself as a legitimate member of the community is in your house. Try to be as social as you can with the people who live around you, otherwise you’ll find yourself like me and “assuming the position” for the HUPD because someone who has lived next to you the entire year called the cops on you because they thought you were a creeper. This strategy requires that you leave your room on a somewhat consistent basis, going to house social events and the like. As I’ve learned, sometimes it’s just not enough to leave your room only when the fire alarm goes off. People from your house need to recognize you in public and think to themselves, “Oh look, there goes Eric. I feel safe living near him.” Of course, if people have this thought about you and your name is not Eric, then you are likely not doing an effective job of getting to know people.

Another excellent way to certify yourself as a valid member of your dorm’s community is through the house e-mail lists. These e-mails go out to the entire house and are a fast and easy way by which you can introduce yourself to everyone and get your name out there. Send out and respond to a few e-mails on your house list in order to prove to them that you actually exist. The tone of these e-mails should be friendly, inviting, and somewhat relevant to house life. Here’s a good example of an e-mail that was recently sent over my house list: “Who the hell called the cops on me today? Meet me outside in five minutes. –Eric :)”

Eric A. Kester ’08 is an anthropology concentrator in Winthrop House. His column appears on alternate Fridays.