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Events, Food, and Awesomeness: CPW by Krystal L. '17

A story about how CPW is more awesome than lobsters

When people ask me where I grew up, I hesitate for a moment before saying Orange County, California. I was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but I moved before the memory making parts of my brain could actually store any reliable information. I have one memory of me crying in the kitchen while my parents try to feed me coconuts, but this is of questionable veracity.

My family then relocated to Carmel, Indiana, a city just north of Indianapolis where I spent my days eating Steak n’ Shake and fishing in the lake by our house. Is it important to this story that I tell you my neighbor Ed used to be a professional clown? Absolutely not. But now you can say that you know someone who had a clown for a neighbor. You know, if that ever comes up in conversation or something.

While some might say that I spent my “formative years” in Orange County, I’d like to think that the years leading up to my second grade move to California played no small role in getting me to where I am today. At the very least, it was the source of quite a few memorable experiences, and even some seemingly unmemorable experiences that have somehow managed to weasel their way into my permanent memory.

This spring break, I went to Chicago with my family for a weekend. As we drove to our hotel, I looked out the window and watched as miscellaneous shrubbery and nondescript store fronts whizzed by. We were in a new city, and there were a hundred different places we could have gone first: the Sears Tower, Wrigley Field, or even the Shedd Aquarium. Noticeably absent on this list was Meijer, the local mid-west grocery store and the very first stop in our weekend vacation.

I had been the one to suggest a stop at the grocery store I remembered so fondly from my childhood in Indiana. Not because I had a strange affinity for produce and breakfast cereals, but because of something I like to call The Lobster Incident.

The Lobster Incident, my friends, begins with Young Krystal’s fascination with the massive lobster tank in the seafood section of Meijer. She particularly enjoyed watching the armored crustaceans frolic in the bubbling waters, so one fine day, she begged her parents to let her stare at the lobsters.

Having gotten her wish, she proceeded to smush her face against the glass and ooh and ahh at the marvelous creatures. Of course, as we all know now, lobsters in seafood tanks are the opposite of interesting. With the poor animals on the brink of death, present day me doesn’t find their lack of liveliness surprising. This revelation soon dawned upon Young Krystal and she realized that seafood lobsters were not, in fact, the most riveting attraction at Meijer. So, bored and brazen, she wandered off into the wilderness of the supermarket, intent on seeing the sights and discovering uncharted aisles filled with exotic goods.

Young Krystal had gone where no Young Krystal had ever gone before and soon found herself lost in the aisle of disposable cutlery and dinnerware, her parents nowhere to be found. To make a long story short, a store employee found Young Krystal, probably bawling in a corner somewhere, and had to call her parents over the store intercom.

The present day me now stood in front of the lobster tank in the Chicago Meijer, wondering how on earth I had ever thought a handful of motionless lobsters, claws clamped shut by rubber bands, were interesting.

Recalling memories and reliving memories are two entirely different things. Before, every time I thought about The Lobster Incident, I remembered with fondness how awesome the lobsters were, how scary and confusing the winding aisles were, and how foreign shelves of cutlery could really seem. More than ten years later, I stare at the lobsters and think: Wow, I’d rather watch a potato grow mold. I peruse the aisles and realize how straight and organized they are. I gaze upon foreign shelves of cutlery and – well actually I don’t usually gaze upon foreign shelves of cutlery. That’d be weird.

I wonder why I remember so clearly the lobsters laying still at the bottom of the tank, or the rows upon rows of paper and plastic plates, but I have no clear memory of crying, of being escorted away by an employee, or of what must have been a joyous reunion with my concerned parents, arguably the most traumatic parts of the story. The most important parts are a blur but the strangest details remain. We don’t get to choose what moments we forget, and which we get to keep. Even those that are stored in some nook or cranny in our memories aren’t always the same when we revisit them in real life.

Campus Preview Weekend for me was a chance to create a real first impression of an institute that I could potentially spend the next four years of my life at. I hadn’t committed yet and was still torn between MIT and another school. The funny thing is I can’t seem to recall much from the four day weekend extravaganza.

Like The Lobster Incident, there are moments that I remember clearly, and those that seem to have faded away. There was the overwhelming bustle of the activities midway, during which I was amazed at the numerous student groups manning booths and trying to interest pre-frosh in the extracurricular side of MIT. There was liquid nitrogen ice cream in the evening outside of the Z-center, current students clad in protective rubber equipment and swirling clouds of white being stirred up by our shuffling footsteps. There was learning how to use an electric drill for the first time in East Campus as rotating troupes of pre-frosh and East Campus residents pitched in to build a tree-house-fort-thing that was pretty darn awesome. Not everything at CPW is directly related with getting to know the campus, culture, and people better; some of it really is just for the fun of it. But it’s a great opportunity to experience things in person and make impressions that will hopefully encourage you to join us here at MIT.

For those of you who haven’t made a decision yet, I’d encourage you to go out of your way to form a concrete impression. Don’t make my mistake and cruise through CPW without paying any attention. I let things happen however they may and I don’t think I got the most out of CPW. While it certainly is a weekend to have fun, it’s also a time preview the campus and for some, facilitate an important decision. Weeks afterwards, I was still agonizing over my decision and my memories were already fading. If academics are at the crux of your decision, go to some classes tomorrow, and ask the students here about classwork, psets, professors and anything you can think of; we are more than happy to answer your questions! If you like sports, make sure you check out the Z-center and go to the athletics fair where you can talk with coaches or other student-athletes. You’re going to have fun no matter what. So many people have put their time and effort into making CPW the awesome event it is every year. But if I could go back and change one thing about my CPW, I would have talked to more people and asked more questions (although eating more liquid nitrogen ice cream would be a close second). There’s only so much you can get out of reading brochures and eating free food.

Reliving the few memories now that I made at CPW is like reliving The Lobster Incident again over spring break. A new perspective has changed the way I view things. While Pre-frosh Krystal at CPW was intimidated by the sheer magnitude and energy of MIT’s campus, Present Day Krystal doesn’t think it’s so scary anymore. Despite all of the pset horror stories and exam day nightmares that I remember being casually tossed around during CPW, it’s actually pretty awesome here. I’ve had time to come to terms with the ups and downs of college life so now the winding hallways don’t seem so hopeless, the strangers milling around don’t seem so distant and unapproachable, and the classrooms and professors don’t seem so daunting.

Have fun. Eat food. Be awesome. By the end of this weekend, you’ll have a bucketful of memories to share with everyone, all hopefully more interesting than a bunch of lobsters sitting around waiting to get eaten.