24 Hours in Van Pelt

by Alex King

1:07 pm : You enter Van Pelt with a song in your heart and glint in your eye; you wink at the apathetic security guards as you swipe your penncard, and as you wait for the elevator you can’t help but thinking that you really will be able to tackle this paper well and even have time to sleep too.

1:14 pm : You find an empty carrel, hang up your coat on the back of the chair, and unpack your laptop. You only left your room a half hour earlier, but you fire up your laptop and check facebook anyway. You have no new friend requests or messages.

1:30 pm : Striking out to find the books relevant to your paper, you’re dismayed at how little is written on the topic. Most of the best sounding books you can find have already been taken out; the only ones you find on the shelves are dusty, old and were written in some past era where unreadably tiny text was the norm.

2:09 pm : Having gathered a fearsome stack of books vaguely related to your paper, you haul them back to your carrel. “Good work,” you think to yourself, “I’ll take a break and check my mail and facebook.”

2:24 pm : You find have no new messages, friend requests, or emails.

6:15 pm : After a few hard hours of looking for quotes, it’s definitely time for dinner. You hadn’t made plans with anyone, so you IM and call a few friends to see if anyone’s hungry.

6:23 pm : No one is. Or maybe you just don’t have enough friends. Regardless, you still have to eat. Despite a variety of dining options around University City, you’ll choose the nauseating Houston Hall because you can bursar your meal. You’ll get a hamburger, it will be burnt, and you’ll sit alone.

8:01 pm : You’re still wallowing in the research- books that seemed like treasure troves of information at first glance reveal themselves to be completely useless, and you spend grueling amounts of time checking the indexes of each book looking for something, hell anything, relevant to your paper.

9:45 pm : The library is starting to thin out as students who planned ahead begin to filter out. You listen to music from your laptop because the utter silence of the stacks is causing a stifling feeling of loneliness.

12:04 am : You lean out of your carrel and stare down the aisle and see the entire endless row of carrels in front of you is empty. Behind you it’s the same. You turn up your music.

12:05 am : You begin to think about how easy it’d be for a murderer to kill you on this abandoned stack. They could just come up right behind you and you’d be done for. You realize no one would discover your body till tomorrow, hell, even later if they hid it well.

12:06 am : You decide to move downstairs to Rosengarten.

1:40 am : You’ve got a few preliminary sentences down now, so you decide it’s a good time to break for some coffee from Mark’s café. You know their coffee is crap, but what else can you do?

1:45 am : You walk up and ask for a large coffee. “We’re closed,” the imposing café worker informs you. “I thought you were open till 2,” you ask. “Well technically yeah…” he continues, “But no, we’re closed.” Great. You return to your desk.

1:46 am : It’d sure be great to have some coffee right now.

1:50 am : Yep, you really could use a coffee.

1:55 am : You decide to go check out the vending machine. You insert your money, and hit the ‘Coke’ button. It’s out. You hit the second ‘Coke’ button. It’s sold out too. You try the third… nope, sold out as well. Alright, you decide to get a Lipton Ice Tea, at least it’s caffeinated, maybe? Sold out. Alright fine, Sprite? Sold out. Fuck, whatever I’ll just get a water. Sold out.

1:56 am : Just to the left of the vending machine you can see through a window to a staff only area that hosts a vending machine. You paw at the glass, fanaticizing about all the Coke, Ice Tea, Sprite and Water the machine must surely hold. You don’t realize it’s empty too, forcing the staff of the Library to get all their vending needs from the student machine.

3:04 am : Still no messages on facebook. Weird.

3:49 am : T-Bone the Adderall dealer discreetly approaches your desk. “Hey man, wanna get studious?” he asks under his breath. “First one’s free.” “Nah T-bone, I’m cool,” you demur. “Suit yourself, sucka.” He leaves to ply his wares to a group of Wharton students holed up in one of the study rooms.

4:03 am : You decide to retire to the couches. It’ll be more comfortable.

5:15 am : “Fuck!” you think to yourself. You fell asleep in the big comfy armchair. You hope no one drew on your face or something while you were asleep.

5:17 am : You bristle with anger in the bathroom as you wash “Insert cock here” and the adjacent arrow off of your face.

6:00 am : Dunkin Donuts is open! You brave the cold and dark to get some much needed coffee. While there, you also buy a bacon and egg croissantwich. It is bland and tasteless. You’re not sure if your bacon and egg croissantwich is bland and tasteless because Dunkin Donuts sucks, or if it’s because your weary and beleaguered body can no longer feel pleasure.

7:04 am : The sun rises- instead of being a welcome sight to you, it reminds you of how little time you have left for this paper. Still, you’ve been making good progress, maybe you can pull this off!

10:56 am : You look over your paper. It’s garbage. Utter garbage. Your use of that big word you found on thesaurus.com seemed so erudite at 3am, but now just seems naive. Looking it over, you become worried about the number of tangents and digressions. Why did you find it necessary to go on a 2 page rant about polypeptide chains? What does Kissinger have to do with your topic? Does the mind-body problem really belong in the conclusion? What is this paper even about!? You try not to panic.

10:57 am : You panic.

11:37 am : You decide you can handle this. You know all the tricks in the book. You know that TAs are up on fooling with the margins, so you make them small, like 0.8 inches. This way they won’t notice when you make the line spacing 2.2 instead of the usual 2. “That’s an extra line every 5 lines” you gloat to yourself. You consider switching the font to Courier New, the king of fonts, but that might be too obvious. You do, however, change the spacing between letters to be ever so slightly, but unnoticeable to the naked eye, bigger. Your efforts have yielded another 4 pages! You congradulate yourself.

12:07 pm : You know that’s not how congratulate is spelled. That reminds you, time to spellcheck!

12:34 pm : You delete the “Make this better” reminder from the introduction. It’d be a dead giveaway that the introduction could’ve been better. Smooth.

1:07 pm : Victory is yours! You print, staple, and stuff your paper into your backpack to escape its hateful hateful glare. Still- it can’t be the worst thing you’ve ever written right? You rush to your TA’s mailbox and deposit the loathsome paper. You estimate the paper has shaved at least 3 years off of your lifespan. But, you’re done! You did it!

Epilogue: You return home, crash onto your bed, and fall into a long, pleasant, dreamless sleep. Haha, nah, jk jk. You have another paper, just as long and tedious, due tomorrow.

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