The 3D Lounge Experience
For this part, I ask you to settle in a comfortable location, preferably on a couch or bean bag. Turn on “The Last Ship” by Sting (embedded below). Pretend the two photographs underneath are really in front of you. Munch on some (free) lukewarm fried plantains. For an added effect, hang Christmas lights around the room and dim the main lights.
(pictures courtesy of Banti G. ‘17 and Emma F. ‘15)
Welcome to our lounge!
Ask me what a typical MIT evening is like, and I will not be able to tell.
By “evening” I mean what most people call “night,” some “morning.” Our lounges awaken at the time Cinderella leaves the ball. Groggy or refreshed students pour in from building solar cars, ballroom dancing, psetting, and UROPing. Most are dressed casually, though there are outliers. Wear whatever you like here. Or wear nothing, if you choose a clothing optional hall.
Occasionally, the midnight lounge is quiet. Some stare at the wall, relaxing. Others click away on their keyboards or study circuit schemes. Non-pset activities range from cartoon viewing to wrestling.
We have pieces of “art” on the walls, ceiling, and trim. A mooing plastic cow. A Home Depot apron. A photograph of an unknown man in glasses. Paintings of bunnies and cities. Road signs from mysterious sources. An in-lounge made table. A web on the ceiling from which to hang stuff. And oscilloscopes. Lots and lots of oscilloscopes.
We also have an XXL Foof, on which many have slept. It’s comfy enough, though its purity is more debatable. Last year, it took us five hours to wash the Foof cover. The gross Foof innards flooded the whole lounge.This was during a historic blizzard, so we had extra time. I doubt anyone will volunteer to repeat the procedure soon. Most likely, the crowds will one day revolt against the gargantuan pillow.
In the lounge, we may hold spontaneous debates on gender, guns, nuclear proliferation, and the military. These are the days we enhance our perspectives on the world. Pose a question, and it will be discussed. Though sometimes the debates may end in an unresolved shouting match. Not the angry kind.
Most of the time, there is music in the background. Something legitimate, like Arctic Monkeys, or funny, like Froggy Fresh. Someone may wheel out a dusty piano for an impromptu concert. On special occasions, the projector screen will come down for a karaoke party. Singing skills not required. Dancing on tables permitted.
At the start of the semester, lounge inhabitants are slow and relaxed. Classes are discussed mainly in terms of numbers and not content. The word “pset” doesn’t come up much.
Then the population and mood of the lounge begin to change rapidly. Noise levels rise and fall. Hosed people come and go.
On busy weeks, lounge debates center primarily around class material. There’s still music in the background, but also the intense rustling of papers and the occasional sighs and grunts. Pset buddies exchange questions. Upperclassmen assist. It’s not rare to see a freshman and a senior hard at work together.
On the whiteboard, new equations spring. An elaborate web of classes of hall members and friends is charted there as well. Lines connect matching selections. Most students have these connections, especially freshmen who take GIRs. The joined pairs and triplets study together.
During the day, the lounge looks lifeless. An occasional student passes by or preps for class, but otherwise the morning light seems to scare the fun away. We are creatures of the night.
But inevitably, the lounges will fill up later. With students talking, working, and learning with and from each other. Growing. Passing on their way to greater adventures. Here, I can trace my college history of joys, sorrows, and discoveries. The start of triumphant marches to turn in psets.
Leaving the lounge at bedtime is the hardest part of the night. When is a good time for it? I have yet to know. That project is still in its beta stage. If I’m in bed before sunrise, I did well.
Now the sun is on the brink of rising. So I must hide in my bed for sleep. Then to open my eyes to the surprises of a new day. Of a new week, busy or free.