Correctly Titled Column

by Dan Galemba | 7/9/01 5:00am

I want to acknowledge the title right here. It seems that, during sophomore summer, editing takes a back seat in light of other festivities in which students are partaking, so I do not blame my editor for the miserable butchering of the title of my last column that caused no one to read it.

Speaking of festivities, sophomore summer kicked off for me with a canoeing/camping outing I would like to chronicle for you. Eight friends and I set off for Gilman Island the same weekend as the sophomore trips; with a trip using the cabin, we thought we would stay at one of the other campsites on or around the island. To our chagrin, all the campsites were occupied, so we had to send out one of the canoes on an expedition to find a place we could stay. Our search party radioed back to us (we had radios) saying they spotted a site downstream on the New Hampshire shore. The "POSTED: No Camping" sign could easily be removed.

After unloading our baggage and towing the canoes up the sharply-inclined slope, we set up camp. We found a deer as interested in us as we were in it; it would look at us and then come a little closer and stand around scratching itself before going on up the trail not twenty feet in front of us. Then we all changed into swimming gear and plunged in the river, only to be followed by a black standard poodle whose owner was taking a stroll down the trail in the middle of which we had set up camp.

I have a black standard poodle of my own, Rocky. Member of the smart, friendly, water-loving breed that it is, this dog, Diego, jumped in and frolicked in the water with us. Of course, a dog's idea of playing is quite different from a person's. While we treaded water, the dog paddled toward us, its head gliding along the surface of the water, jaws chomping, scraping the hell out of us with its frantically-flailing limbs while biting at us. I don't think any of us has ever been so terrified of a poodle.

After half an hour of trying to figure out how to get the dog out of the water and out of our way (with its owner standing there doing nothing but watching the whole time), we figured that if we all got out, it would follow us. And it did -- until it jumped back in five seconds later. So a friend went after it, dragging it out only after being bitten. Without an apology, even sounding annoyed when asked if the dog had all its shots, Diego's owner dragged him off, leaving us all the maimed and torn victims of the attack of the killer poodle.

Ten minutes later, two cops came sashaying down the trail. Cops don't just walk around randomly in the woods; we all had the sneaking suspicion that the man with the dog told on us. Sure enough, they told us that a neighbor had called and they informed us that we had to camp elsewhere. Which neighbor might it have been? Not only did his dog give us reason to press charges, but he caused us to get kicked out of our campsite at 8 p.m., leaving us barely half an hour to reload the canoes, find a site and set up camp before dark.

We paddled frantically back up stream, and, just as the sun set, we found a site on the west side of the island, unpacked, hauled the canoes on shore, and started a fire. We were finally camping. The nine of us sat around the campfire. Five of us were Greek, four non-Greek; five were men, four were women; and we had about as diverse an array of political ideologies as statistically possible in a sample of nine people. As the evening progressed I kept wondering why everyone makes such a big deal out of social exclusivity and the need for broader social interaction; here were nine very different people, all interacting without worrying about ridiculous artificial designations. We were just nine friends camping together as friends. How hard is that?

We had a great time, despite how one camper "accidentally" kicked someone else's sleeping bag down the hill into the river, and how the same camper then "accidentally" dropped a roll of toilet paper just to see it unwind comically as it rolled down the hill into the river. Somebody had also managed to smuggle some alcoholic beverages along for the ride, and I found it interesting that at the height of the drunken revelry, the three people who were completely trashed were three of the four non-Greeks. The rest of us noted that if it were the other way around and we were the ones who were drunk, it would be stereotype city.

And it hit me: stereotypes are ridiculous. Greek students are alcoholics, as if non-Greek students never touch the stuff. Greek students are the ones damaging the grand "pedagogical work" of the faculty, even though the overall Greek GPA (3.29) is higher than the overall Dartmouth GPA (3.28).

I did not intend to degenerate into Greek talk. However, I did intend to show how stereotyping in general is so stupid. Sitting in the woods, away from all the frustrating, repetitive, hostility-causing campus rhetoric, we were just nine friends. Nothing kept us, despite our differences, from having a great night. And why should it have? Why should labels keep us from interacting with people? We're all just people, and when it comes down to it, that's the only label that really matters. And, maybe if we can all recognize each other as people and band together accordingly, we can finally focus our hate and stereotypes on those most deserving: the damn standard poodles.