Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas at College

College is obviously a time of learning and serious study.

But studies of primates have repeatedly demonstrated that the higher the intelligence, the greater such a mind finds need for play. Not just because they can, but that the mind needs play breaks in order to maintain its sharpness in the same way the cook's knife needs to be stropped on the steel from time to time in order to carve cleanly.

With that need in mind, and lest these lessons forever fall out of group knowledge, a couple of examples from my earlier visits to the realm of higher education.

Lesson One: Snowman

I attended college in Santa Barbara. Consequently, snow was a rare commodity, and many of my fellow students missed the seasonal joys, such as making snow men. But, clever minds can always find a way through a problem.

First, get the largest envelope you can find. Not a letter envelope, but something more like one of the overnight things used by the USPS or FedEx: large, square, shiny cardboard contraptions. Or at least, the biggest manila envelope you can locate. As long as it's less than 30 inches wide, it will suffice.

In fact, for this reason you can get two or three of them.

Second, you need to locate someone studying. Not studying just anywhere, but studying in their dorm room. This is key. Ideally, they should be 1) alone, and 2) not able to run as fast as you. This point will become clear in a moment.

Third, and probably most important, you need a few bucks cash to buy several cans of men's shaving cream.

Once you've assembled your components, the rest is relatively easy.

You then squirt the contents of the shaving cream can(s) into your envelope(s) until they are full to oozing. Surreptitiously creep to the door of your intended snowman (or snowwoman). Slide the envelope(s) under the edge of their dorm room door - without going past the inner edge, as this will needlessly tip off your prey. This should all be done with the silence of a cat burglar.

Now, with great alarcrity, pound the living daylights out of their door. Do NOT speak. If they call out, merely continue to pound. If you've ever had your door "cop knocked" by the local constables, you know the fervency of door-knocking to which to aspire.

When you can hear them approaching the door, and ideally, before they open it, jump, stomp, or drop heavy books (that aren't yours) on your envelopes.

Now, RUN.

Because your prey is now covered head to toe in shaving cream, which has spewed forth under the door, and sprayed upward and inward with wild abandon.

If you can arrange to have any number of persons handy to record the scene by photo or video for you, and who are innocent of the crime, and thus not likely to be pummelled, so much the better.

The pictures are guaranteed to be hilarious.
And very snowman-like (minus the corncob pipe and two eyes made out of coal).
And the shaving cream cleans rather simply - once it dries, in a day or so.

Obviously, if someone subsequently pounds the daylights out of your dorm room door, DUCK.

And if you try this in reverse, on passersby while you are inside your own dorm room, you're on your own.

Lesson Two: White Christmas

The dorm I lived in had an upright vacuum cleaner for use by residents, and to vacuum the hallways.

However, if you can gain access to someone else's room while they are, say, studying in the library, you too can help them enjoy a snowy day.

First, unscrew the overhead light fixture.

Replace it with a chain pull-operated socket (about $3 at Home Depot) that screws into the fixture, and replaces the bulb.
Do NOT replace the bulb.

Plug the upright vacuum cleaner into this overhead fixture - with the light switch off - after opening/removing the collection bag. Test it to make sure it goes on when the light switch is flicked on.

Place the sucking end of the vacuum into a large box full of flour. Two bags are better than one. Point the vacuum's exhaust outlet as you see fit.

Optional: plug in a tape player cued to the opening words of "White Christmas," such that flicking the light switch turns on the vacuum and the tape simultaneously.

Lastly, if there is a hallway light, unscrew it, to make the room even darker. Do not attempt this trick in daylight hours. Duh.

Await your mark's return.

They will typically open their door, flick on the light, and hear "VRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!"
Sometimes, they will do this two or three times. It's far funnier if they also hear Bing Crosby crooning "White Christmas," of course, but that may not always be possible.

3-5 seconds, let alone 10-20, from most decent vacuums, will cover everything in a 15x15 room with a thick layer of flour powder. And I mean everything.

Which they will discover, once they turn off the overhead switch, and blindly stagger to a desk lamp or what not.

Merry Christmas.

And may all your Christmases be white.

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