By Derek Foret
The new school year is a weird time for your faithful opinions writers here at the Collegian. You see, while the beginning of the semester may certainly be an incredibly busy time, not much has happened on campus yet. You see, while the beginning of the semester may certainly be an incredibly busy time, not much has happened on campus yet that I could write about. An American Studies department dropping out of its governing body or a politically charged wall being put up in Peirce are events that spur opinion pieces. Drop/add? Not so much. Furthermore, I haven’t spent enough time both on campus and with the first years to come to a conclusion about the actual effects of dropping the supplemental essays, nor have I seen an article or Kenyon Confession I would feel inspired to comment on. But I have seen the new water fountain in 3rd floor Olin. And it, my friends, is terrifying.
It’s called an Elkay EZH20, and it juts out of the wall, baiting you to careen right into it as you turn to go to the bathroom. The extra length is caused by a motion sensor embedded in a crime scene-esque white outline of a water bottle with glyphs on the side instructing you to fill your bottle under it.
As a narrow, vertical, constant stream began to fill my Nalgene, I noticed a glowing green counter on the top right. It said I “helped eliminate waste from 00000919 disposable plastic bottles.” And so I stared at that counter while the sound of the stream grew higher and higher pitched until, eventually, the 19 became a 20. I then grabbed my bottle and ran.
I ran past the new “’70s style aviation decor” in the atrium and took a hard left on Middle Path. I ran past faces I didn’t know — first years? — until I got to the site of the tree renovations. I rushed into my dorm and ran to my room, fumbling for my key, until I realized that my door had been painted black. And my door dec had been replaced by another name — but it was only a first name, and didn’t include the resident’s hometown. Feeling like I was in the middle of a psychological thriller, I picked up a discarded Collegian to check the date, and was only able to glance at the big “Title IX” logo when a friend got my attention by asking what I was doing in a first-year area. When I asked him the same question in a slightly more aggravated tone, with an added emphasis on “you,” he gave me an inquisitive look and reminded me that he was a CA. It was then I realized that McBride is not in fact Alpha Delta Phi divison, so I mumbled something about testing out the new K-Card readers, and headed out the way I came.
While I perhaps have embellished the truth a bit here, seeing the EZH20 really did put into perspective a lot of changes I’ve been noticing lately. It makes sense that a place you haven’t been to in more than three months has changed during your absence. But the small differences I’ve been noticing on campus — from the Peirce chalkboard to hanging out in the same North Campus Apartments with different residents to a certain student’s transfer to a job opportunity that came out of nowhere — have really reminded me that no matter how hard you may try to plan out your entire collegiate career (and further), futuristic water fountains with outdated neon green counters will literally blindside you and there just isn’t anything you can do about it.
As I sit here in my room in Old Kenyon (not McBride), a day away from my 20th birthday, I get a text from my father wishing me luck, as 20 was the one age that made him feel old. There’s something to that; the change of no longer being able to call yourself a teenager, however arbitrary that line may be, has a sense of gravitas to it generally reserved for funerals or political science seminars. But instead of dreading the future, I think of the fountain. Next time I find myself refreshing an email waiting to hear back about an audition or looking up graduate programs at 2 in the morning I think I’ll grab my reusable plastic bookstore water bottle, take a trip up to third-floor Olin and focus on increasing that counter by one. I hope to see you there.
Derek Foret ’17 is a math major from Washington, D.C. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.