Across the River

by Roy Lee | 10/22/98 5:00am

My father used to tell me that he walked 10 miles and had to swim across a river just so that he could go to school. Since he grew up in a war-torn country, I believed him. Now if I have any kids, I can tell them that I had to trek across an entire state and swim across the Connecticut River so that I could go to college. Of course I won't bother to mention that Dartmouth is located right on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Like many students, I did not get on-campus housing this Fall term. Unlike many others, I didn't even make the waiting list or the provisional list. I eventually found out that finding off-campus housing in Hanover during fall is like finding a needle in a haystack the size of Texas.

So began my search for housing. The fear of living in a shoe box in the middle of the Green haunted me as many of my leads came to nothing. When I found some girl looking for a roommate, I called her up to see if it was still available. It was, but she was looking for another girl to share it. After getting off the phone, I remembered reruns of the "Bossom Buddies" where these two guys had to dress up like girls so that they could live in the apartment. I even wondered if I could pull that off.

Then came another thought. I'll just pretend to be gay. A few of the gay people I know get along great with women and vice versa. Even if I could not carry on the charade, I'd just drop the bomb after I moved in and paid the rent. Fortunately some sane and reasonable people talked me out of it.

Thankfully I found a room in Norwich, right across the river. I probably knew that I'd become reclusive and socialize less since I lived in another state. The reality of living in another state and off-campus really hit me when I had a new area code to dial and EBAs started charging me for delivery fees.

Since I live in a house with a few housemates, there are benefits like cable TV, a kitchen and a big yard. We even have a barn and a ping pong table in the basement. Since I have a modem, I can always dial into the College server.

And I do have a few other advantages. Whenever somebody asks me about whether I went to this or that activity, I just say, "Sorry, I live in Vermont, never heard of it." Then if somebody asks me to go to something I don't want to go to, I have the perfect excuse: "Sorry, I live in Vermont." There is no social pressure to party or do anything remotely stupid.

Since I cross the bridge at least twice a day, I sometimes talk to those cops or construction workers near the bridge. One time I saw them pouring cement in the middle of the night and asked them if the bridge was almost done. Well, they kinda chuckled and told me that it'll be finished by next summer. Didn't somebody say ignorance was bliss?

It can be a bit dangerous at night when you are biking across the river. I was doing about 20 m.p.h. down the hill, and I was looking for the sidewalk to the right but I couldn't see in the pitch dark. The sidewalk and the street kind of blend together, so it was even more difficult to see. When I got to the bridge, I realized that I was going to fall and that I had few choices. I could fall to my left and get squashed by incoming cars or I could fall to my right and into the river at 11 p.m. at night. Or try to fall straight and crack my head open. It was going to be painful either way.

After weighing the probability and seriousness of the outcome, I maneuvered so that I'd fall straight and managed to protect my head by scratching my hands to bare bones. Suddenly I heard some cars stopping and asking if I was all right. Touched by their kindness, I said I was. Then they sighed and drove off with tires squealing. I guess they thought they might have caused my accident and feared being sued. Ah, New England hospitality ...

I did learn a few things about living off campus. Dartmouth better build more dorms, and they better get cable TV. I don't think I could live without my ESPN after this term.