Butler Nights – Part 1 of 2

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You’ve probably had your library odysseys. Some last longer than others. In this first installment of a nine-night marathon, Butler Correspondent Maryam Parhizkar narrates what it’s like to have stayed longer than almost anyone.

kjhkjI remember trying to spend as little time in the library as possible freshman year (finals season excluded). This year, given a larger course load, a distracting suite and a laptop that decided to die right before midterms, I should have anticipated a shift over to the darker side of campus—but  I didn’t expect it to creep into December.

Last week, while talking to a friend about my new study habits, he told me that for the longest time he had avoided Butler because seeing people in here surrounded by papers, books, contraband food and coffee cups for days at a time depressed him. Another friend finds something romantic about roaming the halls of a library before dawn. Romantic, perhaps, in the same way that All Quiet on the Western Front is considered romantic – complete with the knowledge that you may never leave the trenches, the homesickness that has you longing for a restful sleep without any prior obligations, and the boundless hope that you’ll come out alright in the end.

What follows is my effort to recount the series of events I have witnessed over the course of a week confined in Butler Library. Details may be fuzzy, as night and day started to blend together near the end. Also note that my intense work-time in the library actually began approximately last Tuesday, although for the sake of this memoir I will place my first evening in Butler a little later.

Night 1

jhMy first late night in the library for this little memoir began as it does for most students who try to avoid it as much as I do: panicking over a paper. Fortunately, reading week wasn’t yet in full swing, so I had no problem obtaining a computer carrel in Room 212, even organizing my a few of my books quite nicely on the top shelf.

I begin working on the paper at approximately 10 pm. At one point, I turned around and noticed the angry sign in the computer lab window. In big capital letters it reads, “YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LET THIS DOOR SLAM. THEN WE WON’T HEAR IT SLAM CONTINUALLY. YOU HAVE A CHOICE,” complete with bold little arrows pointing at the text. Yeesh.

About four hours and not more than two pages of writing later, I heard what sounded like a lawnmower hacking at grass through Beethoven’s 7th on my headphones. I took the earbuds out to see if something is wrong with them, but realized the sound was actually coming from right next to me. An older student, a big woman perhaps in her early thirties, had fallen asleep at her computer, half hunched over the keyboard, unnoticed by the toiling students on either side.

Slightly annoyed, I figured I have no choice but to carry on writing my paper and leave her be. About 10 minutes later she stirred, and when I realized the snoring had stopped I looked to my left again. Rubbing her eyes under her glasses, she glanced at me and asked groggily, “Was I snoring?” Sheepishly, I said yes, nodding my head. The woman looked annoyed. “Well why didn’t you say anything!?” she asked in an irksome whisper. I shrugged awkwardly. We both turned to our respective computers. Ten minutes later she had started sleeping again, and the cycle continued, wherein she asked me about her snoring, to which I could do nothing but shrug (I tried tapping her on her shoulder, to no avail).

After a long nap in the couch I awoke again at 8 am, and so had she. As I continued with my essay, she went into the Butler café and emerged five minutes later with two bagels in hand. She set one on my desk. I looked at her, she looked at me, and smiled. “It’s the least I can do for snoring next to you,” she said with a laugh. I thanked her and carry on with finishing my paper. She returned to her work, and we spent the rest of our time next to each other in silence.

Night 2

The next day when I returned to the library, the whole narcoleptic incident repeated again – except in the morning the woman went to Morton Williams and handed me a bottle of Nantucket Nectars in a bag. She noticed me consuming a can of Red Bull and asked if it was any good, and I told her that it’s as good as one can expect from something with an ingredient called taurine in it. I rushed to turn in my paper by noon, upon my return found my good friend Kate* at the computer. She drank my juice, but I am not too irritated by that. Kate is a crazy pre-med student who lives in the library.

Also, I find that I am starting to recognize the other library denizens, especially the ones who have been in the same room as me. Some of them even say hello as we pass each other by outside. I almost feel like I’ve been initiated into some special sort of club – initiated with a headache.

From this day onward Kate and I officially refer to Butler as “The But.” It sounds cooler and more exclusive this way, sort of.

Night 3

Tonight Kate* joined me in the library again. We are in the “big room,” 214, trying unsuccessfully to study. In a moment of absolute distraction at around 4 in the morning, Kate and I decided to visit the sixth floor of Butler because we had heard it was where the grad students pretty much lived, and we wanted to see it for ourselves. We didn’t find much aside from a locked study room with random junk stacked on the tables, but we did notice a small staircase off to the side, leading to the seventh floor – did a seventh floor exist? We took the staircase up and encountered a swipe-access door that looked like it leads to another dimension. Apparently this is the “Post MPhil Research Space,” filled with enough carrels for 26 people. The carrel in front of the door window was crowded with books, food, and clothes, including a pair of shoes under the desk.

We later found out online that there are also 8th and 9th floors under renovation. From the pictures the 8th floor looks like a series of broom closets, but they’re actually more rooms for individual research. This is the sort of thing that makes me question my idle desire to pursue academia for the rest of my life.

On the 6th floor I ran into the narcoleptic lady again. She seemed more awake than usual. I wonder if she decided to take up Red Bull. If so, I’m not sure if I should feel like a better or worse person.

Night 4

kjhLast night before finally going to sleep we discovered an empty alcove on the third floor up in the mezzanine of 304. Excited, Kate and I moved our stuff into it right way and alerted a handful of our buddies. In the corner of the alcove someone had left a sleeping bag and hoodie, which worries me a little bit.

By the evening, a group of five of us had put the alcove to good use, taking turns guarding the spot at various hours of the day. We managed to sneak in plenty of snacks past security up into our newfound space, and for the first day we were fairly satisfied. Later the nook would be taken over by other acquaintances who got wind of it, but for a short while, it felt like home.

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  1. ish  

    this is really scary

  2. sweet & sour  

    wonderful feature, great writing...but I feel like I already know most of these butler "secrets"...

  3. quiqui

    This reminds me of spring finals 2006, when I spent 2+ days hoarding one of those alcoves on the mezzanine of 304. This year, I've worked exclusively in my apartment during finals week. Comparing the two, I think the butler ultimately makes for less efficient working: you can't take real breaks, you end up in uncomfortable work spaces, which you spend so much time hunting for in the first place. However, it's probably better than trying to work in a noisy suite or a tiny dorm room.

  4. no insights  

    this girl sucks

  5. hmmm  

    i don't agree with the All Quiet... comparison. I think part of the awesomeness about all-nighters (or 9) is the knowledge that you'll be done eventually. ie: "in 20 hours, no matter what happens, I'll be done with my final and out of this p.o.s. library." Definitely a great feeling...

  6. The Dink  

    This could have been so much better. It was so lackluster, never truly plumbing the depths of cracked-out-butler-ness that ensues after 52 hours of never leaving the building. There was no mention of the ignored but certainly prominent sexual tension (im not just some horny dude, in butler one cannot deny sexuality)... there was no mention of just how weird the butler culture is...just a cursory glance at what it's like. THERES NO DRAMA!! (and believe me, drama exists, even in butler, and to a great extent when noticed and written about well!)

    BWOG: ALL YOUR LITTLE FEATURES OF PEOPLE DOING RANDOM SHIT SUCK! THE WRITERS DON'T WRITE FUNNY/EXCITING SHIT, BUT INSTEAD ARE JUST ENTIRELY BANAL IN THEIR DESCRIPTIONS OF WHAT COULD BE REALLY FUCKING HILARIOUS SHIT! imagine what Verliy Veritas would write about 4 days straight in butler...THAT is what we need, not some lame bullshit. the same goes for the pathetic recounts of pathetic people's pathetic thanksgivings. Bwog you're slipping. More snarkiness, more wit, less all out lameness.

    Now, this particular article had glimmers of greatness, but it could have been so much more.

    Wow I need to sleep.

    • dear sir  

      to insert "drama" you claim is lacking into this piece of writing, follow these steps:

      1. rub your eyeballs with cocaine
      2. call your local fbi and say "hello I am declaring jihad on you ok thanks g2g"
      3. don a ski mask
      4. run through the halls while attempting to read this piece

  7. quiqui

    Sexual tension in butler... I don't get it. Seriously. I know it supposedly exists (certainly [email protected] featured a lot of it), but i can't believe it's actually *real*... that would be like sexual tension existing on the subway, or in the dmv, or anywhere else that you don't really want to be...

  8. completely annoyed  

    was she behind the annoying christmas light alcove?
    Geesh, bwog...

  9. Usually...

    I try to be a dick about these little features, but this one I liked.

  10. OMFG!!  

    Do people actually do this!!! That is so insane!! How do you have that much work to do?!?!?!

  11. loved it  

    despite a few instances of verb tense changes, i thought this was a good article.

  12. nono  

    too legit to quit.

  13. ehh  

    I liked this feature. I don't personally like studying in libraries, but this was funny.

  14. The people...  

    In that alcove with the blue sheet are crazy. I was in that room the other night, and it was like a clown car. More and more people kept going in. At one point, Britney Spears started emanating. Someone in a tux wondered by and peeked in. No-one in the alcove appeared to realised that sheets are not sound proof. I started to wonder if I was hallucinating

  15. people  

    think Butler is the perfect place to act like goddamn twelve-year-olds. Grow the fuck up, go back to your room, and study your fucking ass off instead of complaining about failing everything. Learn to have some fucking self-control.

  16. hmmm  

    Someone actually likes Verily Veritas?

  17. horACE  

    people like this girl set up shop in butler for weeks at a time and truly ruin it for anyone who is just trying to find a quiet place to work for a night. i refuse to believe that anybody who sits in there for days at a time is actually working throughout. and if you are one of those grand and clever people that brings half of your dorm room into the library, or five of your friends to study with at all times, here's a thought: study in your fucking room.

    it ought to be a library, with space to sit down, not a social club for people dressed in sweats where finding a space to read for a few hours means finding the decoy pile of notebooks and papers and moving them off a table.

  18. hah  

    The "Batcave" that everyone kept talking about was just a sheet hung over the entrance to a tiny room. Let's not forget that. It's a sheet. That's all that separates their fantasy party spot from the wood-trimmed reality of Butler.
    In the morning, I walked in there to look for a book, knowing that it wasn't even in there. I carried a page printed from CLIO to lend authenticity to my phony search. Swinging that blue sheet aside was like picking up a rock and watching the insects underneath freak out after being exposed to light.

    There were two guys in there, both meatheaded neckless types, who were undoubtedly wasting the space that somebody could have used for actual work. The one guy who did seem to be studying was looking a million miles beyond his picture book as I took my sweet time to find the book that I wasn't really looking for.

    The best part is that, even when they read this, they will have no idea who I am. And, even if they do know, all I did was enter a library room that we all share.

  19. In 304  

    The "batcave" was emanating more fucking Britney Spears a while ago...

    And agreed w/everybody who says it's crazy looking for a spot to study for a few hrs when people "camp out", take up valuable space, and fuck around for a wk.

  20. ...  

    the goddamn sheet-over-the-doorway crap has got to go. That's the most blatant camping bullshit I've ever seen. Part of the code of camping is that you PRETEND YOU'RE NOT CAMPING, to avoid pissing off everyone else with your monopolization of space/blatant rudeness/smell. Believe it or not, space is in short supply in the but (welcome to the entirely non-exclusive club underclassman, it's been called that for decades) and if you're taking space eight hours a day that you're not there, then I CAN'T FIND ANY AND WHEN I FAIL MY EXAM I WILL MURDER YOUR PUPPY.

    *cough*. um. so yeah, camp politely, please.

  21. dudes  

    the bwog is not funny anymore, but it's a good thing this topic was brought up. the blue sheet is the stupidest thing i've ever seen--the light bulb string was kinda funny.
    to the persont that asked...YES WE DO HAVE THIS MUCH WORK..
    Also, if you can't feel the sexual tension in Butler, youre realy selfinvolved, bcause its opressive

  22. In Butler

    I like making suggestive eye contact with attractive girls even though I won't cheat on my girlfriend.

  23. hey guys  

    Just to let you know, there's also space in Hamilton until 4 am. So quit bitching about not being able to find a spot and blaming it on someone's ridiculous library kumbaya and go there, it's pretty empty actually.

    • horACE  

      no, fuck that.

      there is no excuse for "camping" in butler. it's a dick thing to do. i'd like to be able to go to butler because that's where I get books from, and it's the closest library to the dorm where I live. just bring your shit with you when you leave.

      i wrote a paper in butler last week, and fed up with the fact that I went to find space at 8 am and was confronted with a huge room with no people in it but a ton of books on every desk, i moved some books out of the way. I sat there working for almost 12 hours and nobody came by to claim the books or give me a dirty look for moving their stuff. That is nuts. If you're stepping out for a minute to get a snack, fine, but don't stake a claim and then go to class or go to sleep. It's just lame.

      and even if I was a grad student or a GS commuter student, which i'm not, that is all the more reason not to be a douchebag and try to squat in butler for days at a time. grad students and gs students are as much a part of this school as you are, despite whatever horse shit elitism leads you to believe that cc/seas undergraduates are more entitled to butler library than they are.

  24. Why do  

    People think it is ok to hold conversations between eachother and on the phone while in the reading rooms in a normal speaking voice for extended periods of time?

  25. because  

    those people talking on the phone at normal speaking voice in reading rooms are the spawn of don king and christina aguilera's spontaneous and prolonged love-making (probably in the stacks)

  26. ...Aaaaannnddd  

    this entire thread is why I've been in Butler less than 15 times, ever, and never for more than, say, three hours at a time. I have a single this year, but I studied in my room even when I had a double the past two years (luckily enough, I had roommates who made themselves scarce by...what else? going to Butler). I figure that even if I'm going to Butler to study, I'm going to bring my laptop (the cause of 99% of distractions/procrastination) along with me anyway, so I might as well just stay in my room.

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