Mysterious Numbers Provoke Speculation, Intrigue

by Sonya Levine and Adam Keller, Features Editor and Contributing Writer

The “Lost” mystery numbers. The final months of Pronunciation Book. A long-dormant artist’s buildup to a release-date announcement. For generations, mysterious number series and countdowns have fascinated and compelled legions of Americans who have been desperate for answers. Within the past few weeks, Wesleyan Sustainability has dabbled in its own version of this strategy, collaborating with Wes to Wes and posting numbers on the doors of senior and program houses counting down the days until the annual Do It In The Dark competition.

Now that the nature of the countdown has been revealed, it might be a good time to reflect on the exhaustive speculation and theorizing that surrounded the advent of these numbers. Despite the visual hints accompanying them—lightning bolts and dollar signs alluding to the competition’s rewards for energy saving—the theories that have cropped up around senior village have ranged from mildly insane to utterly fantastical.

“My initial thought was a countdown toward the apocalypse,” said Taylor Goodstein ’14. “And then I thought, ‘Oh, how nice of the apocalypse to let us know it’s coming!’ It could also be the countdown to a really self-centered person’s birthday. The three has a money sign on it, so maybe it’s a countdown for Macy’s Unbelievable Pre-Christmas sale!”

Jeremy Senie ’14 took a more philosophical approach.

“Maybe the pieces of paper are answering the question: ‘How many more of these will appear on senior village doors?’” Senie said.

Richie Starzec ’14 put forward the most varied list of possibilities. These included a countdown to Breaking Bad’s Walter White starting a new life as Hal in Malcolm in the Middle; the earliest snowpocalyspe in history; a public leak of Skull & Serpent members; an announcement of the opening of Hermit House, a housing option for College of Letters majors; and the Spring Fling Line-Up: Nickleback, Kings of Leon, and Nicki Minaj.

Theorizing spread to the seedy corners of the WesACB website, where a post on Sept. 23 asking about the numbers prompted several responses. Some of the more printable theories included a countdown to fire safety checks and/or the sacrifice of the firstborn.

“I’ve heard everything from [a countdown] to silent rave, to Tour de Franzia—which I think no one really believed—to something having to do with the workers’ contracts,” said Emily Weitzman ’14.

Indeed, some of the theories that popped up were more serious than the typical conspiratorial goofery. In light of the ongoing controversy regarding custodial rights, some students thought that the numbers were a countdown to the reevaluation of the Sun Services custodial contracts, or that they were a part of the protest against Sun Services for laying off ten custodians.

However, the majority of the speculation appears to have been in the spirit of ridiculousness and jovial anticipation of the reveal of the numbers’ nature. Such theories are exactly what the Sustainability Interns, Isabel Stern ’14 and Ari Lewenstein ’16, and Wes to Wes leader Ellen Paik ’16 hoped to see when brainstorming how they would advertise Do It In The Dark.

“We wanted to create a fun, suspenseful lead-up to the event so that we could garner interest in the whole project and have people be curious about what we’re doing,” Paik wrote in an email to The Argus. “I think it’s been working so far, which is really exciting.”

Regardless of how invested the senior class becomes in the Do It In The Dark competition this year, it is clear that when it comes to getting the attention of Wesleyan students, sometimes less is more.