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The Big Five-Uh-Oh

By Bill Andrews
CAMPUS LIFE EDITOR

No sh!t there I was, man. About to finish a column, my 50th to be published in The Tech, when the power went out. I cursed my luck, in Spanish since I’m Puerto Rican (check), and hoped Word would auto-remember my document. Then I remembered I’m too poor to get Word and instead have OpenOffice. I despaired.

It was brilliant, a tour de force of a column, rich in literary beauty and full of textual delights; it made me want to research whether a Pulitzer has ever been given to a college columnist, though I didn’t because I didn’t want to jinx it. I remember thinking as I wrote it, “Truly, this is a column of the gods,” and wiping my brow as I typed some more black and white gold. My prose was portable enlightenment, and I felt sure, without even a hint of arrogance, that it would change people’s lives for the better.

But just as I was polishing off this masterpiece of a column, the power cut out in my off-campus apartment. I live off-campus because I’ve been a student for a few centuries now (check). If only I’d thought to save once in a while, but I was too worried I’d lose my narrative flow. You’re not gonna ask the goose who lays golden eggs to hold it till you find a bathroom, right? So on and on I’d gone, writing up a storm.

Occasionally I wondered if it was too self-referential as a column. It was, after all, kind of a memorable one: my fiftieth ever published in this illustrious newspaper, the 35th in this lusty section. (I say lusty because we’ve published column on short skirts, penises, and hot girls, (check) and those are just the ones I wrote.) My narrative hook, if you will, was making it a behind the scenes look at my column; sort of like a DVD extra, only without a DVD, or actual material. Usually I wouldn’t want to write a column about writing columns, but for special occasions (and Akshay Patil ’04) exceptions can be made.

Anyway, there I was, lamenting the loss of this laudable, luminous, and lovely (check) column, until finally I reached a decision: I would try to reconstruct that life-shatteringly good column by rewriting it, longhand. True, I hadn’t written anything longer than my signature in longhand in a long time, since that’s just not how we do things here@mit.edu (check), but by this point I was desperate. I was quickly realizing that my loss would also be humanity’s loss, since how would scientists cure the common cold and render war obsolete without my benevolent and guiding words? For the sake of the planet, I got out some blank paper (thank you Athena!) and a pen (thank you career fairs!).

It was a few minutes before I realized the futility of my actions. My handwriting, never particularly pleasant to look at, has actually atrophied in the last several years. I knew then how Linda Blair must have felt, as I wrote in what appeared to be Aramaic or maybe Sanksrit. Eventually, after a Herculean and Superhuman effort, I gave up, and wished Hercules and Superman had been more persevering. Now not only did I miss my dearly departed column, and not only did I have no way to celebrate my big 50th, but I also found myself surprisingly close to illiteracy; it reminded me of the Bard’s famous quote (check), “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.” I was now left with nothing but my pain, a column-shaped void in my life which, I was sure, nothing would cure. Nothing at all! Except maybe alcohol.

Just as I was about to go buy some hooch, I received a fateful call. It was from my girlfriend (check), who I’m engaged to (check), making her my fianc e (super check). I told her about my (and, via humanity, her) loss and she consoled me wonderfully. She convinced me to turn away from a life of hard liquor and drugs before I began it (which is, after all, the best time to change your mind about something). I tried to object that if I was to be a writer and ever hoped to achieve again such dazzling depths of intellectual achievement, my only hope was to turn to the hard stuff; but it was no match for her good-natured, down-to-earth sensibility. She gets that from her Midwestern roots (check … no, wait, I’ve never brought that up before).

I thanked her for saving me from a life of despair and disillusionment. And for the whole being in love, wanting to marry me thing too. There’s nothing like talking to someone who isn’t related to you, but loves you anyway, for your self-esteem. Talking to her put things in perspective for me, too. So what if there’s no big, dazzling, 50th column? I’m sure I’ll think of something to write about instead.