River Rat

by Abby Horowitz | 7/31/01 5:00am

When I visited Dartmouth as a prospective, my host lived in the River dorms. Needless to say, I did not come away with a very favorable impression of the rooming situation here. And I could not imagine having to walk past a graveyard each night to get to my room.

This didn't stop me from coming here, although the River Cluster remained out of my environment even after I became a real student. One of my good friends lived there freshman year. Poor thing, living so far away in a small room in an ugly dorm. I only visited her room once, and that was only because she insisted. In fact, I think that was only time that I traveled to The River my entire first year.

I made my abode on the other, dare I say it, better, side of campus. Yes, I was one of those people who called East Wheelock home for both freshman and sophomore years. After two years of residency there, I knew the area well -- the fastest route to the Hop, how to power-walk to Collis in three minutes, the way to make a quick run to the Food Co-op before my first class. The River, and that entire part of campus, was just not part of my "Dartmouth experience," until I learned I'd be living there this summer.

I was excited to have miraculously scored an apartment there with my friends, but still -- it was The River. Would I have to leave twenty minutes earlier just to get to class on time? Would I get lost in the labyrinth-like basement when I tried to do laundry? And, most importantly, how would I ever get to the gym?

I've been calling The River home for just over six weeks now, so I am ready to admit that I was mistaken in my previous judgements of this side of campus. I like it.

I actually like the walk it takes to get anywhere (which is not quite the miles and miles I thought it was). It's a little buffer zone between you and whatever you are on your way to do. Call it what you will -- decompression time, meditation time, zoning out time -- it's nice to have a little stretch of walking automatically built in to wherever you're going. I once asked a friend who lives in New York City if he minded that to get from point A to point B inevitably entailed, even with subways and buses, traversing many city blocks. He said that he didn't even notice the walking at all, that the walking time required is just a natural part of things. Now I understand what he's talking about -- the walking that comes from living here in The River is not a hassle -- it just is.

Very Zen of me, I know.

Plus, I have my trusty bicycle to get me from here to there when I don't want to hoof it. It's a couple of decades old and only has three speeds, but it can take me to the gym in about five minutes, which is only four minutes longer than it took me to get there when I lived in Wheelock.

And it's nice to have the change of scenery. I realize my apprehension about this side of campus were unfounded, and have finally (almost) learned the order of the Gold Coast dorms, now that I actually see them on a regular basis. Granted, the aesthetics of The River dorms will hardly earn them a spot in architectural history, but how many college students can boast they have a real river in their backyard? (Well, close enough, anyway.)

Of course, I cannot forget to mention the three girls that are partly responsible for my riveting River experience, otherwise known as Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel. (My father's nickname for the apartment: Abby and the Matriarchs.)

So it turns out that living in The River is nothing to be afraid of (at least, not in the summer months). Even walking past the graveyard doesn't bother me. In fact, it's a nice place to stop and take a break on the long walk home.