Recollections of a Stranded Traveler by Yan Z. '12
IHTFP: I Have To Find a Plane. In the meantime, I reflect on happier interpretations of the acronym.
Amidst a Dali-esque landscape of finals-related drudgery and holiday travel rushes (think The Persistence of Memory, but imagine unfinished exams underneath the melting clocks), there resides a species of creative insanity native to jungles clotted around the siren shores of Winter Break. Take the mental hyperactivity characteristic of MIT kids, infuse it with end-of-semester jitteriness, and observe the stress-killing antics that bubble up during Finals Week. By “antics,” I mean something as innocuous as:
1.The Fruitcake Scare. An anecdote: the Friday before last, my roommate received a package in the mail labeled only as “Maxwell’s Equations in a Vacuum.” Nary a mark of the sender’s identity was uncovered, but a decoding of the serial numbers on the packaging produced a phone number with a California area code. Further sleuthing, by which I mean picking up the phone and dialing said number, revealed that the causal agent was my roommate’s uncle. Even further sleuthing, by which I mean opening the box, revealed that “Maxwell’s Equations in a Vaccuum” is an esoteric euphemism for “Fruitcake that will sustain you for two days in case of a nuclear attack.”
Mystery resolved, the fruitcake was donated to Random Hall and East Campus, to be divided unequally amongst 400 or so residents.
2.The Choir Party in Random Hall’s Stairwell. At MIT circa Finals Week, people tend to pack studying into their nights like dried nuts and figs into a slab of Maxwell’s Equations in a Vacuum. Certain events, however, tend to stick out like careless marshmallows in an otherwise high-density period of info-cramming. Par example: one of MIT’s best A capella groups decided to have a midnight party in Random’s stairwell, complete with a bout of feisty and impressively in-tune serenading. Four floors of residents rushed into the well of stairs to soak up the rising founts of ambrosia for the ears, by which I mean Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
(Winner of Yan’s Blog Award for Most Unforgettable Live-Action Rickroll of 2008)
3.Snow. Or, as Californians call it, Apocalypse Now.
At 11:00 PM on Tuesday, I closed my biology notes in a sleepthirsty stupor and was preparing to dive into unexplored levels of springiness within the expanse of my mattress when I accidentally glanced out the window. I ditched the nap.
Apparently, it was not difficult to overstate my enthusiasm. With the power of my Jedi mind tricks, I eventually cajoled a few friends upstairs into risking life and pajama-clad limb on the roofdeck, where we duked out our grievances in a gaspingly brief snowball fight. Bright slivers of our (for now) infinite youth blurred in the radioactive sheen of green lamplight, amplified by the iridescent snowfall.
The sharp, sudden blast of viridescent ice against my face made for a virile sensory cocktail that stayed in my nerves throughout finals week. It was the first authentic, card-carrying snowfall of the year, and the chill was as unforgettable as your first Rickroll.
4.The baking, creaming, cheesecaking, and supercooling* of desserts for the entire dorm every night for 20 days. A few weeks ago, a more ambitious version of myself asked the blogosphere to write in with their favorite dessert concoctions. After careful self-evaluation of my laziness as well as my troubled diplomatic relations with The Oven (no worries, the toaster and I have a stable alliance), I decided to go with Coleen’s suggestion of Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies. However, as a materials scientist, I grappled with the concept of two distinct compositions (chocolate and peppermint/sugar) exhibiting pinwheel-shaped phase separation. Boggled, I decided to forego the pinwheel-engineering and just left the peppermint and chocolate to phase separate according to density and the initial degree of intermixing**. Voila: Cookies That Are Compositionally Identical to But Structurally Distinct From Chocolate Peppermint Pinwheel Cookies Due to Lack of Dough Engineering. That’s a catchy name if I ever heard one.
*Liquid nitrogen ice cream is one of Random Hall’s culinary specialties.
**Meaning that I just chucked a bunch of chocolate and crushed candy canes into a bowl with your standard cookie ingredients.
Although tasty, the outcome was blatantly unstructural and fell apart faster than a highway pass made of biscotti and airplane glue. I heard that the civil engineering majors refused to eat them on principle. Nonetheless, the (deconstructed) cookies were gone faster than a U-haul on a highway pass made of biscotti and airplane glue.
Batch #2 exhibited improved structural properties. Quoth my email to the dorm:
To: Random Hall
Date: Friday, Dec. 19 at 11:30 PM
Subject: Cookies Version 2.0 on BMF Kitchen
Critical analysis of our previous methods (Zhu and Gao, 2008) revealed
that the cause of structural failure in last night’s DDNS cookies was
perturbation of the dough before complete solidification was achieved
following the heating cycle. We believe that this resulted in the
formation of extensive microstructural defects, creating a brittle
solid with weak mechanical properties. Slight modifications to the
procedure were undertaken in preparation of the second batch, which
yielded satisfactory results.
We present samples for your review in BMF kitchen.
Quoth the camera:
5.A hack for sore eyes, lovingly placed in plain sight of the Infinite Corridor.
Two days after the Finale of Finals, I woke up at 7:30 AM next to a packed suitcase and the unearthly stillness of Random-Hall-minus-Random-Residents. Unperturbed by the usual sounds of footsteps upstairs or the last strains of a videogaming session that had spilled past sunrise, I passed through the morning pre-flight rituals, downed the last of my soymilk, flipped open my laptop for a last-minute surf, and saw this:
The night before, this happened:
Which resulted in this:
After a coup staged by inclement weather, utter chaos reigned over the Boston travel scene. Flights were canceled en masse, passengers relegated from standby to standby faster than cows passing through a meat processing factory. Unable to make human contact by phone, much like E.T., I finally hauled self and luggage down to the subway station at 10 AM, hopped off at the airport ‘neath the blizzardin’ skies, and lounged in line for around an hour to rebook a flight. As of this posting, MIT is still honored with my presence.
Also, schlepping through the disheveled, unshoveled snow with luggage ranks amongst my worst experiences of the semester. Outside of snowball fights, I prefer to experience snow through a lens and a pane of window glass.
Luckily, my beloved neighbor Jing ’10 is staying at MIT until after Christmas and has been providing shelter for Wellesley friends scattered to the cold, Bostonian winds by the American Airlines Diaspora. Thus far, we’ve been chillaxing, eating grapes, drinking buckets of tea, and watching profoundly atrocious movies in the basement theatre while swapping tales of our wasted youth in Logan airport. Jing baked cookies last night and the world glowed with soft, chocolatey warmth. American Airlines, you can take away the sweetness of my freedom to travel, but you can’t take away the sweetness of cookies, which contain glucose, which is sweet in a non-metaphorical way, which is dependent on neurobiological sensory wiring, which you can’t alter by canceling flights. I rest my case.
Someday, my plane will descend from the heavens like a silver-winged messiah of the airline industry, bearing forth the overpriced gospel of SkyMall. Until then, I plan to start a business in manufacturing custom-made LOLcats with the help of my feline floormate, Pepper.
First order of business: I can haz boarding pass?