How Harvard Is

by Katrina Koslov | 10/31/01 6:00am

This is a tale of Dartmouth 'shmen in the big city. It is the tale of what happens when six young people who have acclimated themselves to life in Hanover pack themselves into a two-door coupe and head off to Boston. Now, what did we learn of life in the city? Let's see

Picture this group of six walking through the Harvard campus. We're smiling, laughing, joking as we stroll along looking for the dorm in which we're going to spend the night. We realize that -- though not obnoxious -- we're making more noise than anyone else walking across the Yard; in fact, there aren't any other smiling people in sight. The Harvard students -- I swear -- are giving us envious glances.

We find the dorm. We reach, so innocently, to open the door, and find it locked. Puzzled, we look for an explanation and see an ID scanner next to the door. Our Dartmouth IDs do not work in the scanner. So, we start looking for another way in and we do find a basement door that's open. Grateful for what seems like a good sign, we make our way past the guard -- who tells us we aren't "allowed to be happy just because it's the weekend." And what do we find? Another locked door, inside the building, with yet another scanner. We stand there, feeling more and more uncomfortable, until someone lets us through. So -- by the time we get inside the dorm room of our host, we had passed through three locked doors. Locked doors! How did these strange barriers, these doors with locks on them, make us feel? Utterly unwelcome. "How unlike Dartmouth!" we said to ourselves. But we also had to admit to a certain fear, knowing that Dartmouth is starting to lock the dorms. We didn't want our campus to make anyone feel as unwanted as we felt at Harvard.

But we were resilient Dartmouth students, and we left to get on the T and explore the city. One friend suggested, "Quincy Market is awesome. That would be the Quincy Station stop, right?" This seemed sensible. We sat through what struck us as a long train ride and exited at Quincy Station. It wasn't what we thought it was. The only people we could find were walking around inside a graveyard, many pretending to be historical figures. What a "night life." I asked a dead woman where we were and found out we'd overshot Boston entirely and were in the suburb of Quincy. Eventually, we made our way to the real Quincy Market, had dinner and then decided to find something that we were familiar with -- a frat party.

Surprisingly enough, we'd been assured that the best frat parties were at MIT. So, we went there and found a student to ask for directions to "frat row." "Frat?" he asked us, with a confused expression. "Fraternity?" we expanded. He started to tell us that he didn't know what we were talking about, but his friend interrupted and pointed farther down Memorial Drive. We got to a frat, knocked on the door, found it was list-only party, but the brothers let us in because we were "randomly Dartmouth." What followed in the basement would have made dear ol' Dartmouth proud, but suffice it to say there were plenty of toasts to our school and lots of loud alma mater singing. This all should have clued us in to the fact that some of us had had too much.

It wouldn't have been a problem in Hanover. But we were in Cambridge, and everyone had neglected to tell us that the "T" stops running at 12:45. The cabs wouldn't pick us up because two of my friends were being supported on the shoulders of the other four. So, while we didn't know the directions, we set off walking in the direction that we thought was Harvard. We were singing -- still a lot of alma mater, but with some Broadway tunes and "Happy Birthday" thrown in -- and walking through a strange city in the early morning hours. I estimate our trip was about three miles, since we did not take the most direct route to get back. But we made it.

The next day, we didn't stick around for the football game, instead deciding to drive home. Only we made a wrong turn someplace, and ended up about 10 miles from Maine. (It speaks to the greatness of the road trip bonding experience that we did not notice this for a long, long, long time.) This side-trip was not without merit, though, as we were able to able to see two fine examples of what people in that part of New Hampshire do for fun: a monster truck rally and a Christian family nudist camp (closed for the season).

All in all, it was a fabulous trip, what with one friend picking up a tie in a parking garage and wearing it the rest of the night along with a cowboy hat and sunglasses; another talking to a drunk guy on the subway (who claimed to be no less than a prof from Stanford) and learning that turkeys lay 43 eggs a year; another trying to convince us to walk like the Beatles on the trek home from MIT while yet one more belted out the Broadway hits. Hanover may not have prepared us for life in the big city, but we're not at Harvard -- and this trip left us all so grateful that we're Dartmouth students.

A wise man once said, "Life is a pursuit of stories," and he was misheard. ("Did he just say 'Life is a pursuit of scores?'" "What!?! Did you just say life is a pursuit of screws?'") But by that standard alone, this trip was a raging success.