Winter spawns frightful tendencies

by Mark Pleiss

Let’s take a trip back in time.

Eleven to 15 horrible inches of snow hid whatever was left of the campus’ grassy knoll. Students rose from their catacomb bedrooms at 7:45 a.m. to the usual wretched feel of cold air and dried out, dandruff-ridden hair. Cars belched toxic smoke in an interminable attempt to warm up. Nobody dared smile.

And I witnessed it all, cold and depressed.

Winter is the segment of every student’s year where he or she learns the importance of what my dad often called “stick-to-itiveness.”

It’s cold. It’s always early. The sun goes down a few minutes after noon. Students go into a social hibernation – talking only to a few friends in an intricate system of grunts. And meanwhile, the personal battle between sloth and study reaches its apex.

I used to think I was the only one in contempt of mother nature’s coldest cycle. But I’ve found fault in that idea by identifying several trends across campus. Simpson College is a cornucopia of winter drama only noticed by those who endure it. Drop a few marshmallows in the hot chocolate. Behold what awaits us.


First of all, I’m not your typical Pfeiffer hater. To be honest, I love Pfeiff. I think food services does a damn fine job. I know the food is as good as it’s going to get given the situation. And because of that, I never really notice when it happens.

I think the realization hits sometime between the third and fourth week of being snowed in. It’s not that the food gets bad, it’s just that it gets old – fast.

During the sugary summer and spring months and even the first few weeks of winter, the transformations of food never really dons on anyone. Sure you eat hot dogs for lunch, that’s always typical. Then, when dinner comes around and corn dogs are offered – though a nit less fresh – they’re still devoured with pleasure. Finally, the next morning, when hot dog casserole and eggs are combined, everyone rejoices.

Unfortunately, this joy doesn’t last long. Soon, kids grow irritable at this trick and food rebellions begin to take form. A culinary coup d’etat would ravish Simpson College if it weren’t for the next phase, the Zombie Phase. It’s the most numbing of all.

During this time – typically the last month of winter – legions of disturbed, yet hungry students routinely kick the snow off their shoes and line up to eat like the living dead. Unabated by the taste of the food, they seek nourishment only to prolong life before returning to their dreary lairs of study.

Nights out

Believe it or not, the social life at school can get worse. And it does.

During the dreary days of winter, students routinely seek hibernation in their rooms. They do, however, reappear for the consumption of alcohol, typically in great amounts.

Unfortunately, like all good things, it gets old. Eventually the beer just doesn’t taste as good and the typical other-sex beings we hunt become completely unresponsive.

This complex inner grief is driven by self-confidence issues arising from the unsexy style of warm, multi-layered clothing. Sexual activity grinds to a halt, and self-fornication reaches a disturbing high.

But there are several ways to avoid this. First, going home every weekend isn’t the answer; neither is giving up. Your best bet is to find someone as equally mentally squandered as yourself (other sex preferred) and endure a long, deep relationship feeding off the other’s depression.

Socially, this is going to be a not-so-great part of your life. Just stick it out.

Extracurricular activities

Let’s just say you’ll be doing things you never thought of doing before. The vandalism of local yard gnomes is always rampant, as well as pick-up games of on-the-spot-invented sports in Hopper.

Families forgotten

Another prevalent theme of winter is the forgetfulness of students in calling their parents. I’ve answered my phone many times to the voice of an angry family member who told me they forgot they had a son.

It’s not that we don’t love them, it’s just that a new world is often created when the snow begins to fall. Often students, in their state of academic hibernation, forget to do things like smile and be happy. Happiness has always been – at least for me – the number one reason to call back home. If I’m not happy or excited about something, it’s just another, “so … uh … what’s new at uh … home?” call.

Grab and hold on

As we all know, Midwestern values run rampant at Simpson, and with them come the formal dating rituals of small-town Iowans. It’s no surprise that many attending this school are still with the significant other from their hometown. Unfortunately – or fortunately in my case – the aforementioned depression of winter can cause any great bond to snap, freeing two new souls in the game of courtship. Unfortunately they won’t be able to put on their jerseys in that game for another few months.

Final thoughts

I’ve explored many of the disconcerting aspects of winter that we’ll live through in the next few weeks. But there is hope. While the weather is still somewhat decent out, we can prepare ourselves. Make a few extra friends before the snow starts to fall and start a winter support group. It makes a great resume booster. If you’re heterosexual, make friends of the other sex and try to bond. Guys for girls and gals for boys have some sort of strange effect that can make even the most unhappy thrilled to be alive.

And if that doesn’t work, do what I do.

Send companies letters saying their products are defective to get free stuff.