During my freshman year of college, my non-studying moments often led me down the hall of our dorm in search of some conversation, free beer or whatever distraction I could find. Doors were generally left open in those days, inviting passersby to stop in and interrupt or join the moment’s activities.
Often my wandering led me into the room of my friends Jeff and Giles, who were an odd pair but each fun in his own way. Jeff was a chemistry major with a bizarre sense of humor who would put his daily pocket change in beakers he rescued from the chemistry building dumpster. Giles was a lanky fellow who left the family farm to go to college and study engineering. He never really had much to say.
Whenever I walked into their room, though, no matter what the reason, I was inevitably drawn toward one object that would be laying around in various locations—a pool ball. It was an 11 ball, I think. Maybe a 13. A striped one, for sure. But only one. It was odd. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason to having a lone pool ball in a dorm room, and no matter how inquisitive I got about the reasoning behind this pool ball, I never came to a full understanding as to why it was there. If I asked Jeff why he had a pool ball in his room, he would always say, “It’s Giles’. Ask him.” When I would ask Giles, he would say, “I don’t know. Just because.”
This really tortured the logical, linear portion of my mind that hated not understanding why things were the way they were. If it was a paperweight, fine. If it was a gift from Minnesota Fats, excellent. If it was a sentimental memory from a bar fight, great. But neither one ever let on to its origin. And I still don’t know to this day. I do know, however, its fate.
One day during the spring semester, Giles returned from one of his engineering classes during which they discussed elasticity, and how even the hardest of objects have some give. Giles found this fascinating and decided it would be fun to put his newfound knowledge to the test using, of all things, the pool ball.
His idea was to drop the pool ball out the window, onto the sidewalk and see how high it would bounce. By measuring the distance and speed the ball traveled down and the distance it bounced up, Giles could make a rough estimate of its elasticity. There was one major problem with this test. We lived on the ninth floor.
Dropping an ink pen from that distance would be enough to kill someone. Dropping a pool ball would be like launching a mortar. Still, Giles was determined. So he opened the window and let it fly. The ball proved to be remarkably elastic, bouncing about halfway back up before falling once again and exploding into a fine powder. Giles was pleased. I also came to the conclusion that Giles was crazy.
I was reminded of this recently while checking out the new Xavier web site created for alumni and friends. One of the elements of the site is something called “Memories of My X” in which alumni recount some of their favorite, wild or just plain crazy college memories. Many involve basketball games, influential professors or meeting future spouses. Some, though, go beyond the traditional and into the realm of hairbrained—kind of like dropping pool balls out of ninth story windows.
One, for instance, mentions repelling out of a fourth floor dorm window—and offers pictures of the event to the highest bidder. One recalls selling beer out of a keg that was being rolled down the academic mall in a shopping cart. One mentions taking letters or nuclear fallout shelter signs off buildings during scavenger hunts.
There’s one detailing a march back from UC after a football win carrying that school’s goalpost; another about picking up and moving someone’s Volkswagen behind a bush—a great 1960s-era prank. Yet another talks about climbing out of a second floor window at Dana’s after celebrating a basketball win, going on a panty raid at Edgecliff College and then moving the celebration to Fountain Square, all while being tailed by 12 cop cars, 24 cops and seven dogs.
It’s amazing some of the fun, crazy or just plain stupid things college students are capable of doing. I’m not sure whether it’s being in an environment that encourages experimenting, the age of feeling indestructible or just not having been hit yet with the curse of responsibility. Whatever the cause, one thing can be said without question: College creates memories unlike anything else.