Butler Nights – Part 2 of 2

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

jhNight 5

By late evening the next night others have joined us in our little study spot. Someone brought pillows and blankets, and when I first came to the alcove in the morning I found Kate asleep on the floor, looking unwell. I kicked her awake, and as she woke up she gasped to see me there. The custodian can now recognize me by face. On the third floor across from the circulation desk, people were sound asleep on their couches, so comfortable you would think that this is normal for them. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were.

The narcoleptic woman was in the lab again. I heard her snoring from the other room. My guess is that the Red Bull didn’t work out so well. The lab printers have become completely worthless from ceaseless abuse – we’d get the lab consultant to fix them if there actually were lab consultants sitting in the appropriate place. Instead, various students had been using the consultant computers as a last resort, given that it’s impossible to find a fully functional terminal at this point. The only time I’ve encountered an actual consultant is when one asked me to put my Fruit Loops and coffee cup in the trash can, but I hid the Fruit Loops in my trusty Labyrinth tote. Those bitches will never catch me alive.

At this point I find myself wondering what my friends back in the state schools are doing at this hour. Ugh. Bad idea.

Night 6

I woke up this morning and looked up to see my friend Caleb staring at me, with a smirk on his face and books in hand, looking clean and well-rested. As I snapped out of sleepiness I realized it was 8:30 am and that I had actually fallen asleep on the desk in the alcove, with a pillow under my head and a blanket covering me. A bit embarrassed, I told Caleb I was going to sleep in a real bed and that I needed someone to call and wake me up at 1. Someone else fell asleep on the mysterious sleeping bag in the corner but I could not really tell who it was at that point, nor do I think I really cared.

By this point the alcove had become absolutely ridiculous, slowly building a little character of its own. About ten people had been rotating through it 24 hours a day, and the formerly empty shelves are now stacked with everyone’s books, notes, various sources of caffeine, and painkillers. I decided after my terrible rest there that from this point on I would only resort to visiting it occasionally and using it as a place to store my things. It was getting too unhealthy.

hgfIn need of a computer, I moved downstairs to 212 again, and with good fortune found my old spot by the door that I had used at the beginning of the week. As I began to review some writing for last-minute revisions, the guy next to me – a small Asian man in perhaps his late 40’s, early 50’s – asked me something incoherently.

“Excuse me?” I replied. He simply repeated what he said with a weird grin on his face, but I still couldn’t understand him – I ask him to repeat himself about four times and finally he pointed at his computer monitor and says, “Yes, I am not very good with my grammatic, can you check?” Feeling bad for the poor man, I decided to help him out. Apparently he was a Teacher’s College student applying for doctorate somewhere, but it is only after finishing the end of the two pages he shows me that I figured this out. The paper was jumbled with information on small fishing villages in Korea, his numerous schools of education and his 92,340 research topic titles.

Ten minutes later I had made some drastic revisions to the mess. “There you go,” I said, feeling vaguely proud of myself. “No, wait! There’s more!” he said to me with his weird grin again, and scrolled to the top of the page. You have got to be kidding me, I thought. “Sir, I really have to do my work,” I said, but he looked at me piteously and somehow I got coerced into reading more of it. The document was about 18 pages long. Fifteen minutes and eight pages later, I got up and told him I was done, but he managed to keep me in the chair with guilt. The man did not seem to understand when I told him that it was 1:00 am and I was on deadline. 

While reading his ridiculous paper, the little man hobbled over to his briefcase in the corner, got something out, and wrapped it with a blank sheet of paper. When I finally finished looking over the entire document and returned to my seat, he looked at me with his grin, said thank you, and placed the box in front of me. Meanwhile, I had been checking my email and noticed in the Bwog alias that someone had sent a warning about the coercive Korean man in room 212. Holy crap! I thought to myself, and responded to the writer, telling them that I had just been a victim. A minute later I heard hushed giggling from behind me and slowly turned around – two girls looked over at me, nodding their heads.

Before leaving, the old man asked me if I would be in the library later for help. “I like your writing skill,” he compliments me. Afraid, I told him I’d probably be gone later, so he asked for my email address. I gave him my spam address and from that point he put on his little trench coat and left the room, wheeling his briefcase behind him down the hall. After making sure he was really gone, I opened the box to find two little silver wholesale necklaces, one with a peace sign charm dangling from it and the other with a shiny spiky ball. On top of this he left a Jehovah’s Witness evangelist pamphlet titled, “A Suffering SOON TO END!”

In the morning I checked my spam, just in case, and received an email from the Korean man titled, “thanks-god bless you.” It is still in my inbox. Attached to the email is PDF labeled, “The Lord Leads You.” It is Psalm 23.

Somewhere out there, around 9:00 am, I heard God laughing.

Night 7

kjhThe mezzanine, I swear, had become a crackhouse. When I walked up the stairs the distinct odor of alcohol hits my nose, and as I passed by the various nooks I saw students popping caffeine pills, adderall, and codeine – whatever helps ease the pain. I visited my friend Cyrus, who was completely wired on Red Bull and who knows what else. He was working on a 20-page paper that I think had been due the day before. He had been on it for days – the night before he and Kate had a typing contest to see who could type the most words (coherent or not) on their essays within 30 minutes. Opposite from him, Peter was working on his essay while soulfully singing “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child under his breath. 

Around 10:30 pm I called my father and told him I hated myself and wanted to take a year off school. He told me that I absolutely would not. After that depressing conversation, I got a phone call from my teacher about scheduling the next week’s lesson — in the meantime, I noticed the dance party going on in the West elevators. I tried to explain this to my teacher, who is constantly amused by the stories I tell her about what happens on campus. “From what you tell me, I get the feeling,” she said, “that Columbia kids are finally losing it.”

Also that night, while trying to finish my unfortunate last-minute editing, I learned that listening to the song “How to Disappear Completely” five times in a row while in the computer lab is terrible, terrible, terrible for your soul. That there, that’s not me. I’m not here. This isn’t happening. Dear. Lord.

Unable to take it anymore, I went to bed around 5:00 am.

Night 8

Earlier that day en route to the wretched place, I ran into a couple of friends on their cigarette break. They asked me how I had been and I recapped to them the goings-on inside the library at night, including the recent Korean man incident. Jon was startled by what I said, and summed up the strangeness of my week in one question: “When the hell are you going to realize that you live in a David Lynch film?” For all I know, perhaps I should have expected running into a mysterious Log Lady on the 4th floor.

Given my previous night of near sanity loss, I decided to avoid the But for the evening, and went to Lehman instead. People don’t live there and somehow it’s actually easier to get things done when you’re surrounded by SIPA students who scowl at the sound of careless undergrads. Unfortunately, it’s only open until midnight, so we hauled out at around 11:30 to catch Orgo Night back in Butler. I had never seen so many people anxious to be in a library all at the same time.

Nhu-Y and I ran into Kate coming out of the computer lab beforehand, wide-eyed and neurotically twitching, and asked her if she wanted to come and watch the band with us. Zombie-like, she only stared at us for a moment, shook her head, and went to the bathroom.

Night 9

While grabbing breakfast with Caleb in the morning, Kate called me to wish me good luck on my exams. I had to ask her to repeat herself about three times before I could understand. Later in the afternoon, Nhu-Y alerted me that Kate had to talk to her via AIM because her voice was far gone, and that the girl couldn’t even talk to her parents at night. She had also taken three aspirin at once and ended up in her bed.

I remembered last year, when we used to tease her about how she’d fail out of the pre-med program and become nothing but a nurse practitioner. I don’t think I will ever tease her about that again. At night before going to bed I visited the alcove one last time to collect my things. Only one friend was left, and for a few moments we commented on the madness of what the place had become, a thriving little world of its own within the subculture of late-night library rats and obsessive studiers.

Finally, I bid the little spot a fond farewell – I planned on leaving Butler for the Seminary Library in the morning, and did not foresee a definite return. With books in hand, I walked through the security gates triumphantly and tiredly, glad to have been able to withstand the wretched confines of Butler Library. Feeling a little healthier with outside air in my lungs, I made my journey home.

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  1. David  

    The. Only. Winning. Move. Is. Not. To. Play.

  2. You should have

    told your Korean man that your standard tutoring fee is $75 / hr with a 2 hour minimum.

  3. that's  

    some fucked up shit

  4. Anonymous  

    Lab consultants have finals too. Though some really benevolent ones did refill the paper or unjam the printers, even when they were off duty, while picking up coffee from Butler.

  5. not that it matters  

    but the dink approves of and thoroughly enjoys this post.
    and he also feels like a douche speaking in the third person.

  6. abroad for the year

    this might be an unhealthy reaction, but this makes me seriously miss butler. it's all part of the columbia experience i suppose...

    also, on saturday nights at 5 a.m., i have seen a little indian man scurrying about in a dress. keep an eye out.

  7. Thanks  

    for Twin Peaks reference. Made my day.

  8. these people  

    in butler are missing the point of life. in some ways i think the little korean man is the sanest of them all. people, you propagate your own prison!!!

  9. ...

    Lehman is open until 2 a.m., but I probably wasn't supposed to reveal that secret. (it's not posted anywhere else, and it's quasi-unofficial).

  10. one thing though  

    It doesn't sound like you actually had any work to do.

  11. which lib  

    is lehman the barnard library or the sipa one?

  12. barnard  

    library is wollman library. lehman is SIPA. different jews.

  13. bored @ bwog  

    whenever those annoying fucks with the moniker of "lab/library consultant" tell me to throw my things in the trash, i either ignore them or tell them to fuck off because i'm busy.


  14. Yep  

    and all Lehmans refer back to the one and the same Herbert Lehman, governor of New York, son of founder of Lehman Brothers, etc. there is also a college named after him in the Bronx, me thinks, called - you guessed it- Lehman College

  15. Racial Stereotype  

    Small Asian Man

  16. again,  

    this was a nice article, but PLEASE watch your verb tenses, it gets distracting.

  17. Legend has it  

    that a few years ago, an English grad student was evicted because he was literally LIVING in one of those Post-MPhil study carrels on the 9th floor... with hot plate, and reclining seat bed and everything. He had no apartment.

  18. Awe-struck!  

    I cannot believe that this happened to someone else!!! I edited that mans paper last year for 3 hours. But by the time I was done, he had lost all of my editing by “x'ing” out of the program without saving first. It was definitely the same

  19. Really?

    Same paper a year ago? Sounds like it's just a scam.

  20. oh wow  

    So...what does he have to gain from having people edit the same paper every year/wasting their damn time? Is he just sadistic?

  21. That Sucks!

    I hate religious nutbags. He thinks he's saving you by lying to you and wasting your time? What an asshole!

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