Butler Nights – Part 1 of 2
Written by Bwog Staff
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.
I 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.
My 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.
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.
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.
Last 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.