Distractions Through Time

by Mary Liza Hartong and Andrew Kingsley | 5/3/16 5:04pm

You’re in your 9L. The professor opens his mouth to speak and you’re already bored, scrolling through Yik Yak and Facebook with both thumbs. Stop it. This term will be different. You’ll pay attention. You’ll love learning. Ooh! Snapchat! No, snap out of it. The Stamp Act and Tariff of Abomination used to fascinate you. What happened? Ugh, you wish you could go back in time when there weren’t distractions.

“Oh Milly, little do you know there were always distractions at Dartmouth!” Professor Finkle calls out into the void of screen hypnotized faces.

“Did you just read my mind?” Milly asks.

“No, you’ve been speaking aloud. It was very rude. Anyhow, why don’t we take a trip down memory lane, and learn about the history of Dartmouth distractions.”

Cro-Magnon Period

While Hanover would be founded roughly 20,000 years in the future, the Paleo-Native Americans in the area still had their distractions to deal with. Thunderstorms were always troublesome. Why is the world ceiling roaring and spitting light? Reflections in water were sure to stop any hunt. Who is the water-man copying me? Hard to get anything done with all that natural beauty and all those moose wandering around.


The sunlight pours over the delicate pines, the grazing cows and the newborn lambs. The farmers delight in their harvest, living the life of the land. That is, until a new hip trend sweeps the North like a plague. Higher education! How will we ever concentrate on apple trees with all this thinking? Books?? You mean slaughtered sapling pamphlets! It used to be a farmer only needed to plow his land then his wife. Now he needs to explicate poems and find the hypotenuse. James Miller was supposed to take over his father’s flock. Now he’s a Chinese major. What the hell even is China?! This is Satan’s work! But like all fads, this college thing will pass. Who can pay three whole bushels of wheat for something so silly?


In the mid 19th-century, all that students had to battle were their theology midterms. Here’s a sample question from 1860: “If God loves everyone equally, some 3/5 as equally, others just as equally but will be thrown lovingly into the fiery pits of hell for eternity, then tell me why you love God.” Little did these students know they’d meet the fiery pits of the Civil War a year later, where God’s love was equally absent. Soon class sizes shrunk and South House was briefly shut down for obvious reasons. Nothing takes the mind away from learning like fundamental human rights.


It’s the roaring twenties and life is one big speakeasy. Pez and jazz are all the rage, flapper girls twirl through the night and Ford T’s ruled the streets. That is, until Black Tuesday hits. Poverty is so tedious. Studying Keynesian economics is impossible when everyone gripes about their unemployed father. Soup kitchen lines are such a nuisance. Get a job, or at least some new material, people. Put some bubbles back in your champagne. Enough of this wa, wa, wa and back to the foxtrot, am I right?


Good ol’ Dartmouth. The place for gentlemen and scholars. Where young men can be alone, touching each other’s lives, making out what they will do with their careers, sucking up to professors to get out of assignments and penetrating into the annals of literature, the usual. It is like Athens reborn. But all empires must fall. Soon, females invade with their lipstick and chest lumps. What are the men to do? This foreign species doesn’t seem to like rapeball, pin the tail on the feminist and misogyny-tag. What gives? Who can focus on partying when a woman keeps complaining, “Please stop humping me, this is the chemistry lab. No that is not vodka, it is hydrochloric acid.” Put on some turtlenecks and go back to Smith, I say!


You’ve heard of Y2K, the year the world was supposed to end. Clearly the calculations were wrong, but Dec. 21, 2012 is sure to be the recalculated, equally scary and actual end of the world. Hard to lament, “Ughh I’m dying” as you study for Chem 5 when you’ll actually be dying just a few weeks after finals. Professors can now spout with pride and accuracy, “It’s not the end of the world” when they request the class meet for an X-hour because, hey, they know when it really will end. Bummer. Forget iPhones and Miley Cyrus! Impending doom distracts every son and daughter of Dartmouth this year far more than technology ever could.