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Boston Weather: 73.0°F | Light Rain

EC Snowman Meets Unnatural Demise

Column by Timothy K Layman
Technology Director

Monday, March 31, 1997, started out as a big disappointment. After the surprisingly warm weather of the previous Friday, it just didn't seem right that we should have a cold, slushy rain after the beginning of spring.

However, with predictions of snow on the news, it looked like we had a chance of having a white April Fool's Day.

I stayed up Monday night with two of my friends watching the weather on TV and seeing the snow pile up on the ledge outside our windows. We called x3-SNOW periodically to find out if MITwould be up and running for April 1, but I gave up and went to sleep at about 4 a.m., fully expecting that things would be operating as normal in the morning.

Actually, I didn't find out that MIT was closed until about 1 p.m. Iam a final-term senior taking a light load, so I didn't have any Tuesday classes to be canceled, but it still felt good to hear that the Institute was closed by the snow.

Maybe the recent blizzard wasn't as bad as the big one in 1978, but it was still a lot of snow for someone who has lived in Georgia for the past 17 years. With two feet of snow on the ground, it reminded me of the winter from my freshman year, which, if Iremember correctly, had the highest snowfall for the entire winter ever in Boston.

Since this year's snowfall had been pretty pathetic up until Tuesday, Iwas despairing of ever seeing a decent amount of snow again before I left MIT. I decided that Ishouldn't waste the day inside, so I bundled up in layers and went out into the whiteness with two of my friends (one of whom was notorious for a column about snow she wrote for The Tech three years ago).

We ran into a 10-foot-tall snowman outside of the East Campus desk. Obviously some other students had been more eager to take advantage of their free time to build sculptures. The courtyard in the middle of East Campus was actually littered with people's efforts, and most of the good building snow was taken, so we were forced to go in search of unclaimed territory.

It didn't take us long to notice that the tennis courts next to Walker Memorial were still untouched. There was plenty of fresh, virgin snow ready waiting for us.

We started out with some basic snow angels and a couple of snowballs, and we even considered building a snow fort, even though there was no one around us to fight. In the end we decided to follow the time-honored tradition of building our own snowmen.

Since we were on a tennis court, we thought it would be appropriate to build two snowmen opposing each other in a mock match, although I can't imagine trying to chase after a ball in snow that Icould barely walk through. With my two friends happily going to work on their snowperson, I waded over to the far side of the court to work on mine.

I had never had a serious opportunity to build a snowman before. In the few years that we've been lucky enough to get snow in Georgia, we've only had a scant few inches, hardly enough for a few snowballs. Fortunately, it wasn't too hard to get the hang of rolling and packing the snow so that it could be stacked up into a vaguely humanoid figure. Vague memories of my days as a sophomore civil engineering major went through my head.

After a good 20 minutes of rolling and packing I had a five-foot-tall, but headless, snowman. My friends had gone from building a snowman to a more-or-less "anatomically correct" snowwoman. I was ready to top mine off, but the lack of sensation in my hands and legs suggested that it was time for a break.

After a short trip inside and some hot chocolate, we were ready to go back out to finish off our snowmen. However, we didn't even make it all the way to the tennis courts before we noticed that our figures had been desecrated. Apparently, one or more people had come by and wreaked havoc upon our sculptures, fatally wounding the snowwoman and totally demolishing my snowman.

We relocated to McDermott Court, where I built a snow obelisk with another friend, but it ended up being fairly small since the snow there was already well-trod and not very suitable for building any large objects. The obelisk at least lasted longer than my snowman, but it too was gone as I walked out of East Campus on Wednesday, long before it should have melted.

The fact that my snowman met an untimely demise didn't really disturb me that much. He was doomed from the start, destined for a brief life span of at most a couple of days. What did disturb me is that someone could walk by a snowman and think, "Hey, Ifeel like tearing that down!" for what might be no reason at all.

I am smart enough that I would know not to leave any of my possessions lying out in public, for fear of their being stolen, but I never would have thought that an unfinished snowman, worth no more than the water from which it is formed, would be vulnerable to attack in the open.

You may think Iam strange in showing so much concern for a snowman, and yes, I'll agree that I am often strange, but not for that reason.You may think I am naive for not realizing that this is the way the world works, but I won't agree with you there.

I'll probably never build another snowman, since I'm going to be leaving for what Ihope will be a warmer climate soon, one where there won't be a chance of so much snow. But if I do, I'll remember to finish it before Ileave, so he can at least die with a head.

Timothy K Layman is a senior majoring in mathematics. All he is taking this term is a six-unit seminar. He spends the rest of his time eating and catching up on the sleep he missed over the past three-and-a-half years.