February 18, 2020

YAO | In Defense of the Chimes

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Cornell Days. April 2019. Weather.com predicted rain, but whatever deal the school struck with the devil must have paid off –– the sky persisted as a Gandalf-grey. McGraw Tower ascended towards the defiant heavens, serenading droves of dewy-eyed prospective students with the brassy tones of the Alma Mater. A perfect day by Cornell’s standards.

The illusion shattered when a guy with a crazed look –– possibly an Applied & Engineering Physics student –– stumbled out of Uris Library. Glowering up at the bells with bloodshot eyes, he eloquently said, “FUUUCK THAAAT” and staggered away. This is exactly the kind of auspicious omen every admit wants to hear. Too bad I applied early-decision, I thought.

From that pivotal moment, I became consumed with an age-old question. A question to end all questions. A question that I planned to write my first philosophy paper on, before the professor kicked me out of office hours for “trespassing” because I “wasn’t enrolled.”

Why all the bashing on the chimes? 

Well, I’ve now finished a whole entire semester at Cornell, so I more or less understand the general campus sentiments. Apparently, some people think the bells “disturb the peace” of the West Campus dorms and Cornell’s two major libraries, Olin and Uris. The only thing I can tell these detractors is to stick around, because in the next 633 words I’m gonna dismantle your worldview to the extent that my visual studies professor would expect.

To my West Campus peers, check your privilege. Everybody knows that a clock tower alarm is number two on the list of Top Five Most Effective Ways to Wake Up. It builds character, something we all need more of in these trying times. You have the luxury of waking up to one every weekday at 7:45 a.m., even if your first class isn’t until 1:25 p.m.. You build five times as much character as the average student. It’s why you’ll probably live longer than the rest of us.

Plus, if you’re binging The Mandalorian on a Saturday afternoon and suddenly have the pressing urge to sing to “Far Above Cayuga’s Waters,” you don’t have to fret. McGraw’s got you covered. This impulse occurs in me every other week, and I just wish I lived on West Campus so that I could show some school spirit from the warmth of my dorm. And don’t even get me started on all of the money you West Campus dwellers have saved on concert tickets. Why pay up to hundreds of dollars a year for Coldplay tickets when you have the chimes? Use the money you just saved to pay off the activity fee that Student Assembly saddled you with (stay tuned for my next column).

Not sold on my flawless reasoning? Well, you’ve just proven to yourself that you should forget about West Campus and pick Sheldon or Cascadilla when housing timeslots open. Or better yet, choose Schuyler. I’m sure if you lived by the Ithaca Commons, the chimes would be nothing but a distant memory. Oh, who am I kidding, if you couldn’t already tell, this entire article was a scheme to guarantee myself housing in Flora Rose next year. Can you blame me though? I would go to bell and back for those tacos. That wasn’t even a joke. I would actually drag my unathletic lump of a body up 161 stairs if Rose tacos were waiting at the top. But I digress.

Not everyone lives on West, but I guarantee that everyone has sat inside Olin or Uris at some point. Two sanctuaries, where AEP students and humanities majors alike go to cry and commiserate. I get it. The chimes are a distraction. But picture this: You’re tired, you’re sad, you’re wet because you forgot an umbrella and you have two finals the next day. You glance up while trudging into Uris Library, see a little Santa hat perched on the tower and hear the chimes playing Christmas music. And at that moment, you realize something. You realize that you’re probably still going to catch hypothermia and then fail those two classes. But hey, at least Cornell’s getting into the holiday spirit.

I know what you might be thinking: It’s the inside that matters, and the inside of McGraw Tower is so damn loud. Personally, I find the ear-numbing noise to be quite instrumental in preventing any unwanted snoozing in the stacks, where falling asleep is a risky business. Who knows when you’ll wake up again. Five, ten, ninety years later? Maybe once Uris Hall finishes rusting? It’s been ages since I’ve seen the movie, but I’m pretty confident Sleeping Beauty decided to take a nap one day and doomed her kingdom to eternal sleep. Only true love’s kiss saved her. Unfortunately, Perfect Match’s success rate isn’t that high, so trust me when I say that it’s better to take your chances with tinnitus.

I’ve almost reached the column word limit, so I’d better have convinced you by now. But in case I haven’t, I’ll leave you with my final Hail Mary to mull over: That dude I saw during Cornell Days probably woke up in time for his physics exam, and he has ole’ Bingalee Dingalee to thank.


Katherine Yao is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at kyao@cornellsun.com. Hello Katie, runs every other Wednesday this semester.