My brain seems to be stuck in college these days; the only interesting reminiscences with which I can come up lately all come from that time period. Since we’ve been emphasising my nerdy, geeky, dorky qualities and my Good Girl image, how about a story about the geeky, dorky ways this Good Girl found to rebel, just a little?
Wheaton College, the alma mater of Billy Graham, has a building named after him. It is quite a large building–it stands at the bottom of the hill across the street from the rest of the college and it seems like the top of it is as high as the top of the much older, castle-y building at the crest. It has five and a half stories–very high-ceilinged stories.
So speaking of stories . . .
During Sophomore Year, my pals and I used to sneak into the Billy Graham Center (BGC) before it got locked up for the night, to play Sardines. Surely you know how to play Sardines, but in case you don’t, it’s essentially a reverse hide-and-seek, where one person hides and everyone else goes to look for them. If you find the hidden person, you hide with them until finally one lone person is still searching for everyone in, in this case, an enormous five-and-a-half-floor building and freaking themselves out.
Lots of the time while we were in there playing, the cleaning people were in there cleaning, and then when they left, Public Safety, not knowing that we were still in there, would come along and lock the building. At that point, no one could come in and bother us (and Public Safety innocently went on their way not knowing that they probably should), but we could still get out whenever we wanted.
That year, during Homecoming Weekend, Mom and Dad and TheBro came out to visit. They were probably staying at Auntie Shelley’s house or something, but on Friday night TheBro stayed with some of my guy friends on “Traber 3” and we brought him along on our Sardines shenanigans to show him a Christian college good time. (He learned how to have his own Christian college good times there a few years later, but at the time I was the expert.)
We were running around the BGC in packs of about six–which is not really how to play Sardines, but then again, I guess it doesn’t matter–when this guy said, “Hey, did you know that if you climb out the window at the top of the stairs, you can inch along this ledge below it to the next window, which is unlocked, and you can climb through it into the attic?”
“There’s an attic?” we said.
“Yeah,” he said. “And then you can open the door to it at the top of the stairs from the inside, and let everyone else in.”
“Cool!” we said. “Let’s go do it!”
Actually, it might have been I who said that. For some reason, I was under the impression that he was telling us this from experience rather than hearsay, but when we got to the top of the five flights of stairs, he said, “What? Are you kidding? I’m not doing it!” Everyone stood there staring at each other and refusing categorically to climb out that window, but that was way too anticlimactic, and besides, there was TheBro standing there, too, and I was his Big Sister, determined to prove my daring coolness.
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
I opened the window and a whole lot of pairs of hands lowered me out.
There was, indeed, a ledge, I’m happy to say. I was less happy to discover that the pitch of the roof was shallow enough that I had sort of to lean my butt over nothingness in order both to stand on the ledge and hold onto the window sill. Also, I guess I had expected the window sill only to come up to my waist or something, but it was more at chest height, and the ledge wasn’t more than six inches wide. Oh, and also? It was dark out, which I guess was good for escaping detection, but not so excellent for being able to see what I was doing.
“Um, guys?” I said. “This is scarier than I thought.”
They all wanted to pull me back in, but then I thought–what the heck, I’m already out here and if I don’t do this I’m going to regret it later (most people think that about more normal things, I suspect), so I finally declined their offers of help and began inching my way over to the next window. That part went okay, but then when I got to it, I kind of had to push myself even further away from the roof in order to shove the window sash up, and then there was nobody on the inside to help haul me in. I tumbled in probably pretty gracelessly, but there was no one right there to laugh at me either, so after I dusted myself off, I looked around for the door.
There it was, with one of those long narrow door-windows in one side, like is in every door in ever school in America, probably, and light from the stairway was shining through it. I opened the door. There were all my friends and TheBro, looking relieved. We walked all through that dark, fully, super-creepy moonlit attic, and we told each other stories about rumours we had heard about what that giant cage was doing up there, and speculated about what the non-Pledge-obedient students got up to in the nooks and crannies, and . . . after we were done exploring, we walked through the locked door, down five and a half flights of stairs and out the other locked doors into the street.
The next day during the Homecoming football game (which I’m not sure why we attended as precisely nobody in my nuclear family of origin is remotely athletic), I looked up at the BGC roof. There was a window open, and I knew I hadn’t left any that way. “Psst!” I whispered to TheBro, “See? I guess other people do go in there!” TheBro grinned. He pointed where I was looking. Then he said, “Hey, Mom and Dad, see those windows up there? Jenn climbed out of one of them last night.”