What happens in Hewitt stays in Hewitt

What happens in Hewitt stays in Hewitt

In quaint Hewitt fashion, a temporary beeping noise (barely) interrupts diners just about every hour. The reliable noise causes no one to stir, and people continue to munch, socialize, or watch Netflix on a side table. But what is the source? Aliens? An undercover Soviet sleeper cell? PrezBo’s private subway stop? Daily Editor Betsy Ladyzhets, unlike her dining counterparts, is concerned and lets her imagination run loose about the beeping in Hewitt.

The one thing I know for certain about Hewitt is that I never know what I might find there.

Every time I walk down those eerie whitewashed hallways beneath Barnard Hall, my stomach growling in time with the pounding of my feet, I wonder what I will find today. Will I stumble upon a bag of elusive whole wheat bagels, or pesto salad in the salad bar? If I’m lucky, I might be able to make off with an entire chocolate cake, but then again, I could instead be cursed to feast on only bland lettuce mix, dry cereal, and cold decaf coffee.

And that’s not even including the awful beeping noise.

I make my way through the blessedly short line, skip the hot meal option in favor of a turkey sandwich and some salad, then find a decent table with minimum sauce stains. Within moments, twenty pages of reading for my First Year English class are on the table, my cellphone is safely tucked away, and I’m ready to get some real work done.

Or, well, I would be… but that beeping just won’t quit.

It’s high-pitched. It’s grating. It’s aggravating. And, more than anything else, it’s loud – as though a small, vindictive devil is sitting on my earlobe insistently blowing a whistle directly into my ear canal. This is like listening to a car alarm, but infinitely more personal. There’s no way I can do homework with this insanity going on.

Today I resolve not to. Today I stand up, homework and sandwich both forgotten, and go to investigate. Now, I’m no Hufflepuff, but when I set my mind to looking for something, I’m usually pretty capable of finding it. I head back to the serving area confident that I can locate the source of this shrieking torment, and complain to the right people to get it shut off – if not permanently, at least for the next half hour.

I walk through the dining hall slowly, methodically checking anything that can emit loud noise. I examine toasters, salad bar spoons, coffee makers, and Columbia boys alike. Some other diners shoot me strange looks, but I don’t care. Their scorn cannot diminish the grandeur of my noble quest.

Unfortunately, after ten or fifteen minutes of solid examination, I’m right back where I started, and the noise is still going strong. Still worse, nobody else seems to notice it. I pause briefly to wonder if, perhaps, bio-induced stress is already driving me insane – then quickly shake off those thoughts in favor of a new strategy. I need to look again.

This time around, I close my eyes and focus on the noise itself. Where is it coming from? Where does it go? (Where is it coming from, Cotton-Eye Joe?) Eyes clamped shut, I follow my ears across the dining hall once more, bumping into several tables, a wall, and a group of tray-laden girls on the way.

Soon, the noise is so loud, I can barely stand it. I open my eyes and find myself standing in front of a door – a door in the hallway leading up to the bathroom. This door must have always been here, but somehow, I’ve noticed it before, even though I visit this bathroom at least twice a day.

The door is heavy, and clearly locked, but it does sport a window. On the other side, I can see the basement of Sulzberger Hall – there are the doors to the practice rooms, and the familiar light green of the couch in the Sulz Lounge. Surely the noise can’t be coming from there? If Sulz was frequently barraged by beeps, I definitely would have noticed by now.

Still, this phenomenon demands further investigation. I’ve come too far in my quest to stop now.

Next to the locked door, there’s a small black ID reader. I pull my ID out of my pocket and scan it – the reader flashes green. But when I try pushing the door handle, it refuses to budge.

I scan my ID and try the door again, this time with feeling. My efforts still go unrewarded.

I try it a third time – but this time, I whisper a few lines of Allen Ginsberg poetry I keep memorized specifically for occasions such as these, and push on the door with all the force I’ve acquired from my daily regimen of one push-up a day.

The door works.

I step through the door and into another world. This is no Sulz basement – actually, this is no Barnard dorm at all. This is a presidential suite. The furniture is newly polished, free from scratch marks, the most expensive printers sit on the desks, and I can feel cold air – from real AC systems, not window units – blowing cold air against my skin. There’s a sound system, and a shoe rack, and—is that a minibar?  And the room smells like pine. Pine! How is this even possible?

I’m admiring the bright shine of the top-notch desk lamps when, suddenly, the rooms begin to pulse with noise. The beeping is so loud, I can’t hear myself breathe, or even think. I’m starting to think the beeping is inside me. I am the beeping and the beeping is me. BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEEP.

And then, through the haze of sound, I notice something projected on the back wall: a complex formula, accompanied by the words, Identify this chemical formula by its molecular diagram. State its molar mass and boiling point, and describe the reaction that takes place when it is mixed with lysergic acid diethylamide. If you fail, your Orgo grade will drop by 0.03%.

“Orgo?!” I scream at the wall, my heart racing in some kind of instinctive terror. “Orgo?!  I haven’t taken Chemistry since my freshman year of high school!”

As easily as switching slides on a powerpoint presentation, the projection shifts – this time, to a diagram of some kind, and the words, Identify this animal by its digestive system. Explain how this system works, what type of food the animal eats, and how the animal’s digestive system has evolved to most efficiently process this food. If you fail, your Bio 1500 grade will drop by 0.05%.

Shit. How do they know I’m in Bio 1500? And, worse, how do they know that I haven’t read the chapter on the digestive system yet?

The beeping noise somehow gets even louder. It feels as though a rocket is taking off right next to me, but instead of being dominated by the thundering of the engines, the room around me is thrown into beeping, beeping, as though the very earth is shaking with the rhythm of the beeps. It’s not going to stop unless I give it an answer, I realize with dread.

“Ruminant-eats grass-has a bunch of stomachs-digests food multiple times!” I shout. I don’t stop to find out if that was the correct answer or not – I’m too busy making a mad dash for it – I leap out of the room and slam the door shut behind me.

Safely outside, I lean back against the wall next to the door. My breath comes in short bursts, and my muscles won’t feel ready to move for at least the next seventy-two hours.

Clearly, I realize, this is the suite where they house the pre-med students.

One mystery solved.