Sandy and Seniors settling in (Wharton) CD

I live in Wharton CD first, an exclusively senior hall in an exclusively—minus one junior—senior section. The trade-off for the lack of awkward leaning-in-the-doorway-chatting-with-someone-in-the-room interactions that vamp up the noise level of the hall is that hall life is virtually non-existent.At this stage of my college career, this bothers me very little; I’d bump into fellow hall mates in the bathroom or at the water fountain, give them a perfunctory greeting, then sidle away with a knowing smile. It is not that seniors in Wharton CD are less friendly, nor is it that we don’t care about hanging out with people on our halls. CD merely attracts a type of person who would rather have a peaceful and quiet dorm life than a vibrant hall culture that might cause angst at two in the morning because you just cannot bring yourself to knock on that door and tell those neighbors you see walking around campus every day to turn the music down. Also, most seniors are tired, tired people. We’ve come to establish a routine at Swarthmore that takes effort to change and frankly, we might not have the time, energy or the desire to try to change that comfortable routine.When Sandy hit and the power went off, I had just come back to my room. Most of my close friends (who lived on my hall when I was a Willets kid) live across campus in Worth. I had stayed in their quad for most of the day, discussing parenthood and the character development of Disney movies with the gusto of one who lays out one’s mound of reading and fingers through the first two pages of the first reading for four hours. Within the first five minutes that I came back, all light vanished and my eyes were frantically trying to trace the outlines of objects that had existed in my vision just a moment before. My phone flashed as texts arrived with the all too informative “POWER IS OUT!” type notifications.I had expected at least some heads to pop out of the utterly dark rooms into the hallway but this hall was quiet. Eerily quiet. Standing in the middle of my dark room, I made quick calculations as to whether it was worth going back when I heard someone dragging a large, heavy object on the carpet in the hall. The seniors who live in the little cove to the left of my room were moving the lounge couches so that they could play board games in the halo of emergency lighting. “Hey, do you want to play?”

I don’t know if I’m the only one who’s never played the game “The Settlers of Catan” before but it’s ruthless. You have to strategically take away your opponents’ resources and pathways so that you can build the most settlements and then hog more resources until you emerge victorious by being a greedy hoarder with 10 Victory points.

I did not win.

Playing this game, however, was the first legitimate informal hall experience I had as a senior. I played with M, Y, T, and B, whose names I choose not to disclose but you can probably find out with relatively minimal stalking if you so wish. I knew all but one by name before but had never interacted with them for such a prolonged period of time. As Sandy threw a passionate tantrum outside, we played with equal fervor. Speed isn’t a crucial aspect of the game so during the moments when we pondered the best strategy to crush our opponent’s chance of survival, we shared genuine conversation. Personally, it’s been a very long time since I’ve gotten to talk to a group of people who were so relaxed and sincerely, purposefully engaged. No computers, no phones, no work, wholly unplugged. I remember that night’s conversation as astoundingly pure because it lacked the obligatory effort of friends who already shared a lot of memorable moments together. There was no history and no contract for a future; we were stranded in a particular moment in time when we could fully appreciate and enjoy that moment for what it was.

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