How to Survive an Alien Invasion at Swarthmore

It’s 2020 and yes, I still watch Doctor Who. We all have our guilty pleasures, and mine just happens to come in the form of convoluted plotlines, bad British humour, and unrealistic space adventures. The other night, as I was watching the latest episode, a thought occurred to me that made me stop, mid-spoonful of ice cream: what would I do if I was suddenly in the middle of a Doctor Who episode? If aliens came to Swat, could I survive?

Of course, my answer is no: I would be extra-terrestrial toast within ten minutes. But this is mainly due to my own lack of coordination, inability to use any kind of weapon, and general tendency to get lost in maladaptive daydreams. But I do think that if aliens did come to Swarthmore, the chances of escape are quite high for those with even slightly better survival skills than mine. 

So, for those of you who have ever watched Doctor Who and wondered the same thing, for those who are always prepared (just in case), for those who may be a little paranoid, here is my guide to surviving an alien invasion at Swarthmore College.

First, it is necessary to be able to identify the aliens. This can be quite tricky; everyone knows that extraterrestrials have a tendency to come, conveniently enough, in humanoid form, or else are able to disguise themselves so well that you would never know the difference. I don’t want to make any overarching generalizations here — we all have our quirks, and I don’t want anyone to be mistaken for an alien just because they’re a little odd. If someone is acting suspiciously, it is always better to check that they aren’t just trying to avoid a failed Screw date or searching for a missing airpod before any further actions are taken. 

It is certainly possible, of course, that the aliens will make a dramatic entrance (crash into the bell tower, land their spaceship on Sci, beam down on Parrish Beach…). In this case, it will be very obvious from whom you should run, screaming. 

I would encourage the screaming-and-running thing, while we’re on the topic. It may not actually facilitate your escape in any way, but I imagine it’s quite cathartic and could, minimally, help reduce stress from the two papers and three exams you have coming up. So go for the whole dramatic-extra-in-a-bad-horror-movie shebang, and scream all you want. 

However, there is, I imagine, some strategy in surviving an alien invasion. So while you are running away, remember that you are also being chased. This may seem like a bad thing until you realize that, while prey is not generally said to be in a position of power, the hunted at least get to choose the direction in which they flee. This is where our clever, Swarthmore-educated brains come in handy. You can lead the aliens wherever you want, and I have some suggestions for the best choices. 

A good option would be Sci basement. I know it’s the last place anyone would willingly go, but hear me out. The lower level of our dearly beloved science building is a literal labyrinth. There are confusing corners, strange ramps, and angles where you least expect them. It’s the perfect way to disorient a jet-lagged alien! You can even try trapping your alien in a lab filled with mysterious radiation (after all, no one really knows what the physics department does) and sizzling your chaser that way. This however, may not be necessary; it’s quite possible that the alien will see the rows of homework turn-in boxes lining the halls and get so overwhelmed at the thought of doing all those problem sets that it gives up, letting you go free. But, if you’re too scared of the basement, or think you would get more lost than your extraterrestrial pursuer, I understand.

An alternative choice would be to run down the hill to Sharples (and no, not because all the excitement and fleeing has made you hungry). If you can lure an alien into Sharples at lunch-time on a weekday, they are almost guaranteed to be surrounded by a mass of hungry college students, just fresh from class. You, an adept Swarthmore student, know how to nimbly navigate the Sharples lunch-time hoards. Your alien, on the other hand, is not so practiced in the art of dodging in and out of students, avoiding backpacks, trays, and that one person you really don’t want to talk to. Even if the outer space attacker doesn’t funnel off into a side room, fall into a compost bin, or become trapped by the vegetarian bar, it will see just what it’s up against. “If this is how hard they fight to get to sub-par pierogies,” it will think, “just think about what they’ll do to defend their planet!” At this thought, the alien may feel so intimidated that it simply goes home. 

If the alien seems to be unbothered by the hoards of students, there are some extra measures you can take. For example, you could try handing them a drink (after all, they must be parched after all that space-travel). Then, when they least expect it, knock it out of their hands (assuming they have hands). This will result in raucous applause and laughter from a crowded table of athletes. The extraterrestrial visitor will likely be so embarrassed that they’ll leave in shame. And if all else fails, you can always run to the salad bar and pelt the alien with (only two) pieces of hand fruit. 

Maybe this approach is a bit violent for you. In this case, there may be an easier way to get rid of any out-of-solar-system guests. Any alien attackers probably prepared for earth-like conditions: temperatures around 60 degrees Fahrenheit, sunlight, liquid water, etc. They would have gotten used to the air pressure and atmospheric makeup. However, they likely only prepared for the textbook standard 80 percent nitrogen 20 percent oxygen air composition. For this reason, you may be able to save yourself by luring an alien invader into Willets. While you’ve had time to acclimatize to the thick, smog-like, pungent air of the building, your extraterrestrial friend certainly hasn’t. The weed-infused air may be just enough to disorient them and throw them off their game. If you’re lucky, it might knock them out entirely. 

In the case that all else fails and aliens are still hot on your heels, I have one more trick you could try: lead your alien to the Co-Op. No one, not even visitors from outer space, can resist aisles of organic dried fruit, homemade peanut butter, or strangely expensive but gloriously fancy cheeses and honeys. Once the alien walks through those doors, it will be so distracted by fair-trade chocolate bars and fresh-baked bread that it will forget about the chase entirely, and you will be free to make your escape. 

I know this may all seem unnecessary, irrelevant, even ridiculous. But I’m also aware, from my years of Doctor Who watching, that you never know just when or how an alien invasion will present itself. I am not just being overly cautious, either — I have my running list of professors who do not seem quite … earthly. You don’t want your next office hour visit to turn into the expositional scene of a bad sci-fi show, do you? We’re Swarthmore students: we’re clever, we’re creative, we juggle about five too many extracurriculars with hours of work and a few-too-many late nights at Crumb, and in spite of this we get good grades without grade inflation. If we can do this and more, then as long as we’re prepared, any future alien invaders are no match for our caffeine and stress-fueled line of defense. 

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