April 8, 2008

What I Learned at Boarding School

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When I was a sophomore at Choate, I went to the annual Senior Speeches event and sat on the floor of the Winter X (our gymnasium) to listen to four of our most random seniors pontificate about what Choate meant to them and their lives. Unlike the previous year, when six female streakers holding up a banner that read “Choate Class of 2002” ran above us and the speaker on our suspended indoor track, interrupting a speech about how women should respect themselves more (no joke), this year I could barely stay awake. I was more interested in the fact that both my legs were falling asleep and that my hands were going to smell like floor for the rest of the day than I was in Nicky Eisa’s soliloquy on campus golf. However, that I even remember how boring and useless her wisdom was six years later, proves that maybe she was onto something.
Having spent a full four years in a glorified jail, I would say I learned a thing or two about creating fun from whence there is none. I, in turn, would like to pontificate to you the magnificence of boarding school diversions. Let us begin.
Ben Gay in the Pants
A classic. To get the Ben Gay, you might have to get mom and dad to FedEx it over or plan ahead and bring it back from a long weekend break. Now, the objective of the game is to see who won’t cry first while the burning sensations blanket their nether regions.
Drinking Glasses of Maple Syrup
This doozie of a game involves waking up for brunch on a Saturday or Sunday (weekdays not recommended) and entering Hill House Dining Hall with a full heart, an open mind and a stomach of steel. The participants, anywhere from two to an entire table’s worth (twelve-ish), fill up their glasses with viscous sugar sap to the very brim. After a short pep talk, each participant chugs the contents of the glass until a)it is empty, or b) the player vomits it right back up. Whoever vomits last wins.
Peeing in Waterbottles and Seeing Who Will Drink It
This one was mostly left for the men of the Choate community, as they were better equipped for the targeted trajectory of their urine flow than the ladies. After purchasing a few water bottles from the vending machine, the player of this one-man game drinks as much liquid as possible in order to fill up his bladder for the next step of the game. After 20 or so minutes, I.P. Freely, III, excretes urine back into the Poland Spring bottle, just like the circle of life. At this point, the pee-er might place the bottle on his windowsill to cool down, thus preventing the situation in which his target might recognize the warm liquid to indeed be urine and not apple juice. Or, if the pee-er is a senior and a prefect, a leadership position bestowed upon the most responsible of Choate seniors to look after the underclassmen, he might be privileged enough to have a refrigerator in his room for his urine. Once the bottle is nice and cool, the pee-er finds a gullible peer (a non pee-er peer) with a poor sense of smell.
Drinking in the Shower
At Choate, drinking was strictly prohibited. Thus, just like how we masked pee for apple juice in water bottles, we also masked vodka for water. The best place to drink once quarantined in your dorm for the night after 9:30 p.m. curfew was in the shower. Problems arose when drunk students collapse and almost died in the shower, and faculty members were henceforth required to do random, middle of the night checks to both save lives and also, of course, squash fun. Cornellians also drink in the shower, a tradition I’m glad followed me to college.
Birthday Humiliation
The thing I miss most about Choate was knowing everyone so well I knew their birthdays. It wasn’t hard to do, though, because every morning when I went to class, no matter if my first class was in the Science Center or the Humanities Building or Steele Hall, I would find horribly mortifying pictures of any of my 849 classmates postered all over the doors. I would chuckle and take comfort in the fact that I have a summer birthday.
Spitting into Each Others’ Mouths
This is another dining hall classic. Two impeccably dressed Choate students position themselves across a wooden dining hall table, approximately 10 feet in diameter, from one another, take a small object and test its gravity and air resistance by spitting it into each other’s mouths. Ice and gum are great options. This is a game we played mostly as third formers (freshmen) when we were all taking physics, though it lived on right up through our graduation luncheon.
How Long Can We Not Shower?
In my experience, this game is most popular with sophomore boys; the answer is over three weeks. Shout out to the Quantrell triple in 2002-2003 for being the dirtiest kids in the history of Choate Rosemary Hall.
I hope that you’ve found this National Geographic expose on boarding school kids’ creative takes on “fun” intriguing, and I hope you all engage in one or two of these diversions. Beyond that, I hope they inspire you to come up with something new on your own, like maybe whipping it out in Libe Café and seeing how long it takes for you to get kicked out, or peeing obscenities in the snow. Just make sure that at the end of the day, employers can’t find your name on Google attached to accusations of sexual harassment.

Rebecca Weiss is a former Sun arts editor and a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be contacted at rebeccaweiss@cornellsun.com. Weiss-A-Roni appears in Arts sporadically.