Off Campus is a social experiment of student writers paying it forward. CuseTonight.com and the Syracuse New Times are partnering on this project by asking local university and college students to write an article with one standing rule that states: “You can only write about off campus experiences.”
Once we receive an article, we ask the writer to pass the torch to another student to complete the next installment.
What do you do when you are a senior in college and have a snow day or an early dismissal? You are too old to go sledding and it is only 2 p.m., so it is probably frowned upon — at least by my parents – to head to the bar. Some of my friends opted to stay in and catch up on some work or much needed sleep. Others decided to throw snow day parties in the mid-afternoon, and, a few permanently borrowed dining hall trays to go sledding down the Crouse hill, which they regretted the next morning after waking up sore and covered in bruises.
I didn’t have any work to catch up on, so I considered going to one of these parties or even trying to go sledding, but I have done these things all before and wanted a change. I threw on a hat, two sweatshirts, a jacket, and gloves and decided to go on an adventure. I got in my car and went downtown to Clinton and Armory Squares. I have been downtown numerous times, usually to get interviews for school projects or grab some dinner, but this time I just wanted to walk around and see what was going on. When you go to SU and have lived on the hill for four years, it is easy to forget there are other things in Syracuse beyond the Marshall Street and Westcott area.
The drive downtown seemed like it took forever. My average speed was a whopping 10 mph. Even with my snow tires and all-wheel-drive, I ended up sliding sideways down a few hills before I could make it off campus. I nearly hit a few parked cars, but the danger made the journey a lot more fun.
When I got to downtown, my first concern was where am I going to park. Should I drop some serious cash — five or ten bucks — to pay to park in a garage, so I don’t have to worry about cleaning off my car or should I just park on the street? Like most college students, I chose the cheaper option. Surprisingly, there were not that many cars on the street so I quickly found a spot. Thank God, I didn’t need to parallel park. The only two times I actually tried to do it were when I took my driving test. Yes, I took it twice because on my first try I hit the curb, while trying to park between those two giant orange cones. I pulled up next to the curb in Armory Square and faced a second dilemma. Do I park six inches from the ice-packed snow bank or do I park on the snow bank so I am the legal six-inches away from the curb? I figured the Syracuse Parking Authority wouldn’t be that strict in these snowy conditions or a sympathetic judge would understand my predicament. I parked on the edge of the snow bank, about eight-inches from the curb, got out, paid the meter, and set off with no particular place to go.
I eventually made my way to Starbucks to grab some fuel also known as coffee. The usual bustle of downtown was nowhere to be found. There were a few cars on the road, but it appeared everyone else decided to stay inside because of the snow. There was one person in front of me in line and the barista instantly handed me my coffee upon request, which is a once in a lifetime occurrence. On campus there is usually a line out the door at Starbucks and both Dunkin’ Donuts, during the morning rush. If there were ever a world coffee shortage SU students would likely riot or at least miss all of their classes before noon.
I sat down to people watch, but there was no one in sight. It reminded me of walking around in the middle of the night. The sidewalks and streets were empty, which made the usually congested downtown seem like a ghost town. The eeriness of the silent, sleepy streets mixed with the beautiful winter scene created by the light falling snow was an odd experience. After watching maybe two or three very boring people in a 40-minute time span I decided to head over to Urban Outfitters for some window-shopping.
The window-shopping turned into real shopping. A new phone case, two t-shirts, a jacket, and Hawaiian shirt or $120 later, I decided to go over to Sound Garden to check out some records or just listen to some good music.
I made my way outside and took about 12 steps when all of a sudden, the sidewalk disappeared from under me. I fell on the ice. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have laughed at people falling on the ice. It looks like karma finally caught up to me. The few sips of lukewarm coffee—one thing I can thank the cold for—ended up on my sleeve. My new clothes fell out of the bag. I ended up on my back and my dignity was nowhere to be found. I got up, shook the snow off my jacket and felt a cold draft. Suddenly, I realized I ripped my pants. Of course I had to rip them in the groin. Not only did I have to face the embarrassment of walking back to my car with a hole in my pants, I was now cold because of the recently fabricated air vent I just added to my pants.
I took off my jacket and held it in front of my pants to block anyone’s sight of the hole and made my way back to the car. I drove back up to campus even slower than I when I went down. I got out of my car put my jacket in front of the hole again and made my way back to my room.
The next day I woke up and was probably as sore as my friends who went sledding on the Crouse hill and had less money in my pockets than my friends who threw the snow day parties. I made a vow that morning to never laugh at someone falling on ice again, because falling is funny, until you hit the ground.