Based on the New York Times’ “Metropolitan Diaries,” the Middletown Diaries will include awkward, funny, novel, or sweet anecdotes, stories, or memories that happen at Wesleyan and in Middletown. To submit to the Middletown Diaries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This weekend, campus felt different to me. It had little to do with the crowd that the night’s football game brought in. No, it had more to do with the fact that almost every student is gearing up for Fall Break.
Everyone’s been here for more than a month now, so it makes sense that break is eagerly awaited. Plans have been made to stay on campus, go home, explore Boston or New York, visit friends at their colleges, or even to quickly fly abroad.
If you’re like me, your mind is already focused on break. There are things that need to get done before break, but you can’t fully concentrate because all you can think about is where you’ll be come Friday (or earlier, if you’re so lucky).
But, as I keep telling myself, it’s important to stay focused. Get that essay written, study for that test, clean that room for room checks. Once completed, you can truly enjoy Fall Break. And during these four days, give yourself a break, because chances are, you need it. I know I do.
This semester has brought with it a variety of changes and challenges. As a sophomore, I have more work, more responsibility, and generally more obligations than I did freshman year. Though being consistently busy occasionally takes its toll, for the most part, it is also what has always drawn me to Wesleyan; the opportunity to be involved on campus in many different capacities is not one that I take for granted.
One particular challenge this semester has been figuring out how to make time for my job off campus as an SAT tutor. I know what you’re thinking: The SAT is a nefarious, elitist test that is no indicator of any individual’s intelligence or ability to think critically, and really should not play a role in college admissions decisions. And I would agree with you wholeheartedly. But on the other hand, the SAT is hard, students need help, and the act of helping them happens to be quite financially rewarding.
As it turns out, it’s been rewarding in other ways as well. My students thus far have been kind, curious, and willing to put in the effort to do well on the test. I can’t say I don’t enjoy helping them puzzle out math problems and untangle dense readings, and even when I feel like I’ve explained exponent rules a hundred times, the “Ohhhh!” that they let out when a concept finally clicks is entirely worth the trouble.
And when I traipse down the hill to the Vine Street parking lot at 7:30 a.m. on Saturdays, awake enough to register little more than my discontent at being out of bed at such an hour, I sometimes get to see the fat and furry little groundhogs that hang out in the grassy area of the hill. They don’t care much about deadlines or assignments or the SAT, and they never fail to make me smile.
Shrödinger’s cat was the first thing to come to mind when, crossing the threshold of the Red & Black Café, I dropped my phone face down on the concrete. In my arms I had been holding a polka-dotted umbrella, a meticulously stickered water bottle, a reporter’s notebook, a tote bag stuffed with homework materials, a mug, and, of course, my phone, precariously resting between two fingers. Because this was a long list of things to be holding and I am not an octopus, my attempt to also open the café door was an act of hubris that would prove to be my fatal flaw.
Staring at my phone, face down on the concrete, and ungracefully kneeling to pick it up, I recalled that in the famous thought experiment, the hypothetical cat placed in a closed box with a vial of poison was hypothesized to be both alive and dead, as long as the physicist had not yet opened the lid of the box. There are certainly discussions of quantum mechanics at play in this allusion that are far beyond me; my immediate attention rested not on the physics, but rather on the certainty that in the moment before I picked up my phone, the screen could be simultaneously cracked and uncracked.
As soon as I retrieved my phone and flipped it over, the experiment became irrelevant. The crack covered the entire screen, veining out like a ginkgo leaf in one corner and shattering into a spider web in another. I had previously taken it as a point of pride that my phone screen had never cracked, so once again, my pride was deeply misplaced. With tentative fingers, I squinted at the screen, typed “Middletown phone repair” on my fragmented keyboard, and called the first number to come up.
When Frank from the phone repair shop called me back, I asked when would be a good time to drop by his storefront, presumably on Main Street. It was at this point this experience took an interesting turn, as Frank informed me that his phone repair business was “mobile” and that he usually meets Wesleyan students on the street behind the Exley Science Center. Rather perplexed, I weighed my options: meet a man behind an academic building or spend the rest of my week getting “micro-cuts” on my fingers and cheek bone from the cracked screen. In a stereotypical millennial/Gen Z move, I prioritized my technology and made an appointment for the next afternoon.
After going back and forth over text about the meeting location—I had taken “behind Exley” to mean Lawn Street and he had meant Pine Street—I met Frank in his blue Honda. He had an adorable daughter in the back seat, excitedly babbling about her school day and pleading with her father to go get ice cream on the blustery autumn day. In the passenger seat, a box of phone parts sat inconspicuously. Frank, still in the car, took my phone through the window, and for the next 10 minutes I listened to him chat with his daughter as he unscrewed my screen and performed intensive cosmetic surgery on my screen. Almost sunset, the campus looked golden in the light, and I enjoyed my time without a phone to distract me. Ten minutes and $70 later, Frank handed my phone, good as new, back through the window, gave me a complimentary glass cover for future blunders, and continued on his way.
So though I can no longer trust that it was good karma keeping my phone screen intact, at least I can enthusiastically endorse mobile phone fixers.