MIT is blessed with a lot of things. Nobel-caliber faculty. Fine facilities. An urban campus with a very low chance of being robbed unless you make it obvious that you're worth more than a buck forty-five. Dorms and frat houses with cockroaches you can saddle up and ride to class. And a group of completely clueless people.
This goes far beyond the select group of administrators who can't tell their ass from their elbow even if you hand them a copy of Gray's Anatomy. It spans the gamut, from idiots who stumble across Mass. Ave. without looking up from their textbook to people who will say---in public, where others might hear---that MIT Food Service is doing a fine job.
If you recognized yourself in the previous paragraph, put the magazine down. I was just kidding about you being clueless. Put it down. Go on, do it. Do it or it's harrassment! HEY! THIS CLUELESS GUY WHO'S READING VOODOO IS CREATING AN UNCOMFORTABLE COLUMN--WRITING ENVIRONMENT FOR ME! CALL THE C.O.D.! TELL THEM THEY ARE FINALLY GOING TO HAVE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THAT LIMP GENERIC HARRASSMENT POLICY ACTUALLY MEANS!
I imagine they're all gone now, scurrying back to the comfortable confines of a happy, balanced campus magazine where obnoxious columnists aren't allowed to yell at them in capitals. Good. This column is for the rest of us.
Fun can be hard to come by on the MIT campus, and clearly there is no better fun to be had than to screw with the minds of the utterly clueless. Now that we're Back to School (cheesy tie-in to issue theme), here are some ways to truly enjoy yourself during the term. Some are MIT-specific. Others can be slightly altered and enjoyed anywhere the clueless are found. Have a ball.
Every weekday at 10am and 2pm, the MIT tour departs from outside the information office in Lobby 7. Sneak in the back. Walk along with the freshmen for awhile. You could even find some old person off the street to play your ``mom'' or ``dad'' (Official VooDoo Safety Warning: Be very clear about your intentions when asking a stranger to ``play your mommy.'' If there is a misunderstanding and you wake up naked in a motel on Route 1 in Saugus, call the campus police at 253-1212)
Now, there is a point where the tour stops between Walker and the Libraries, and there is an amusing spiel about one of the big, ugly, black, metal windblockers on the east side of campus. As your tour guide babbles on, look up at the Green Building and whistle loudly. Begin to make extremely audible comments, like ``Gosh, that's gotta be at least 22 stories from the roof,'' ``The green patch of grass must make for easier clean-up than cement,'' and ``I bet a human body falling that distance gotta splatter like a rotting melon.''
As the discomfort of your guide, the clueless prefrosh, and the parents becomes more and more apparent, the guide will begin to move the group along the tour route, which goes right by the Green Building. Continue to look up with fascination, and strike up a conversation with the tour guide.
You say, ``So, are you a student here?''
Your guide, thrilled to be off the topic of rapid gravity-driven acceleration, says ``Yes, I am.''
You: ``Yeah, my dad went here.''
Guide: ``Really? So you must know quite a bit.''
You: ``Uh-huh. Dad says the Green Building was the place to jump in the early seventies.'' Guide, quietly now: ``Jump?''
You: ``Yep. End it all. Take the tuition-free plunge. Do the free-fall waltz. Eat pavement, not ARA. Become a human 8.01 demonstration. Finally make your advisor remember your name.''
Guide, waving the group forward: ``Up here you can see the Chemical Engineering Building and Biology Buildings.''
You: ``So is it still the most popular jump?''
Concerned Prefrosh Parental Unit: ``Yeah, is it?''
Guide: ``Um, no, I guess not''
Other, Similarly Concerned Prefrosh Parental Unit: ``Well, what is the most popular suicide site nowadays?''
Guide: ``Er, well MacGregor House is pretty popular, I guess. I think Senior House had one.''
You: ``Off-campus is doing pretty well, though.''
Guide: ``I guess off-campus is doing OK. I mean, it's got nothing on the campus, but it's making a run at the title.''
Prefrosh Parental Units, to their offspring as they hustle them back to the car: ``I know MIT has a great academic reputation, but is it worth it?''
You, satisfied your job is done: ``I see it's still the warm, fuzzy, pressure-free place it was when my Dad went here.''
It came to the attention of my parents that it is cheaper for them to call me than it is for me to call them, by I think several orders of magnitude. So when I want to call them I first place a collect call, which they reject. Then they call me back. After a few times, I began having some fun with it.
The operator picks up and says ``AT&T.'' I, in my best 9-year-old waif-like voice, say, ``Cowect Call to my Mommy and Daddy, pwease.'' Usually the operator will say, with a smile in her voice, something like ``Sure thing, honey, I'll see if your Mom and Dad are home.'' Gotta hand it to AT&T, they are nice to little kids.
When my Mom picks up the phone, I hear ``Hello.'' Then, ``AT&T with a collect call. Caller, your name?'' And I say ``Biw-wee Jackson.'' in my child voice. My Mom, who hates it when I do this, says, exasperated, ``No, I won't accept the charges,'' and hangs up. This is when I quietly say, ``But Mommy, I'm wost.''
Three operators have offered to adopt me so far.
Ring up Alan Leo, ARA's man on campus. Lie like a politician and tell him you work for a new campus newspaper and you would like an exclusive interview with him. For added fun, come up with a great name for your imaginary rag---I suggest Is It Dead? The Journal Of MIT Dining Hall Cuisine. When he agrees to the interview, tell him to meet you at the appointed time at Lobdell and generously offer to buy him lunch.
Meet him and part your separate ways to pick your dinner. It's likely that Alan may have ``already eaten.'' That's OK. You should head for the Features counter and select the Meat Of The Day. (It's the stuff with the veins running through it and the black and blue marks where the Hartz 2-in-1 collar used to be.) Find a table and sit down.
Don't start talking right away. Cut a piece of your meat- bring your own rechargable electric knife to ensure this doesn't take you more than a half-hour---and pop it in your mouth. Begin chewing.
I probably don't have to tell dining service regulars that you don't have a prayer of chewing through that meat and creating swallow-size morsels. So, as you're chewing, begin asking questions. ``CHEW CHEW Sho, Alan, CHEW CHEW, ish it true that shoon CHEW CHEW every dining shervish at MIT CHEW CHEW will be contracted to fasht food reshtaurantsh by ARA, CHEW CHEW, which ish of coursh the company that MIT contracted CHEW CHEW in the firsht plashe CHEW CHEW to run a dining shervish?''
I recommend that just this once you forget some of your Miss Manners and chew with your mouth open. Give Alan plenty of opportunities to note the enormous amount of time and effort you are devoting to chewing the meat. Take chewing breaks every fifteen minutes and make sure to massage the jaw muscles so they don't lock up, but whatever you do, don't stop conducting the interview.
Finally, as you're wrapping up the conversation, take the meat out of your mouth and place it on your plate. In color and consistency it should be close to its original state---ARA meat is, if nothing else, exceptionally durable. Tell Alan you enjoyed the interview and if he'd like you have a piece of meat all warmed up for him.
Tell your advisor you have decided to change to course 26. At this point your advisor will either (1) nod knowingly and mumble something about that being fine if it's what you want and that course 26 is a fine department or (2) admit outright that s/he has no idea what course 26 is.
In the event of number 2, affect a frustrated tone and explain that course 26 is the department of Linguini-istics and Parapsychology (it's more effective if you say it really fast.) Say that you already have a UROP lined up where you will attempt to move a pasta, meat, sauce, and cheese casserole with only the power of your mind.
Here's the killer---have with you a stack of blank Reg forms, some Add/Drop cards, and an Application for Degree form. If your advisor asks (only if s/he asks) mumble that they are a few things you need signed in order to change departments. They will be signed without further question.
Do whatever you want for the remainder of your undergraduate career.
It never ceases to amaze me that people cross Mass. Ave. without really being aware of what the drivers around them are up to. I mean, ask a Massachusetts driver if you can see his/her license sometime. The notches you'll observe on the edges of the plastic represent pedestrians (small notches are roadkill.) As someone who learned to drive in Massachusetts I can indeed confirm the long-standing rumor that this state's driver's ed. classes contain a section on removing human carcasses from the windshield while driving.
So when I see someone with their nose in Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs standing on the curb outside 77 Mass. Ave., I find it unbelievable. First, I want to run up to the dork, grab his book, and throw him to the ground, jumping up and down on him and rubbing the book in his face while screaming ``WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH YOU? DO YOU THINK YOU'RE GOING TO JUMP TWENTY POINTS ON THE FUCKING EXAM BECAUSE OF THE THREE LINES OF TEXT YOU MANAGE TO MAKE OUT AS IT JIGGLES UP AND DOWN DUE TO THE FACT THAT YOU'RE WALKING WHILE YOU READ?''
But this is anti-social, and doesn't alleviate the problem, because usually the person gets up, dusts himself off, and says ``Huh?'' So instead, I get behind his very quietly and whisper ``Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk. Walk.'' Since his higher brain functions are occupied with reading about Lisp---akin to a deer seeing a lot of guys with orange vests and guns and ignoring them because it's busy sniffing a flower---his unconscious brain hears ``Walk'' and somewhere a neuron convinces his feet that's the right signal and he begins to walk into the traffic.
Frequent successes with this technique will decrease the number of people wandering around campus with their noses in books or their eyes on the ground, giving the rest of us, who keep our eyes forward and our heads up, the run of the campus.
For what it's worth, that's the guide to having some fun at MIT. There are no guarantees, of course, and you should feel free to improvise.
Ok, someone let the clueless back into the magazine in time for the next article.