One of the great things about observing other people is that you can learn a lot about yourself. This week, I spent a sliver of Tuesday night sitting in my car talking with my fiancée while people-watching. The car was parked in the dark, and none of the passers-by had any idea that we were there. Apparently there had been some sort of off-campus party. Marguerite shuttle after Marguerite shuttle dropped off tipsy students, and they stumbled past our car. Some were wearing costumes, others were dressed for the cold weather. Most just seemed lost. There were two pairs though, that stuck out, and I’d like to focus on them to show you how I have changed over my time here at Stanford.
The first person to really set herself apart from the crowd was a drunk girl who vomited repeatedly while walking with her friend. She slowed very little when she started heaving, and the two joked about it. When we saw this transpire, we of course wondered if she would be all right and, at the same time, were surprised that she could continue to walk while vomiting; we surmised that she had practice at it. As the girls walked off, I couldn’t help but wonder why she hadn’t put her hair up or in a ponytail. After all, if you are going to puke, you don’t want to get it in your hair.
The second incident happened as we got out of the car to walk back to my dorm. There was a girl sitting on the ground and another male student near her. As we approached, he got ready to urinate on a BMW parked in the lot near the street, but before he did, he asked me if it was mine. At first, I was startled that he was so polite. I replied, “No, I drive a Ford.” He laughed at that and said, “A man’s car.” At this I discontinued the conversation because I didn’t feel that I could claim anything about the heteronormativity of driving a 37-year-old American-made pickup truck. Something about the situation made me wonder about myself and the way I reacted, though. It was more than his politeness and the fact that I was tired and the fact that it really wasn’t my car that made me not care at all. I am a different person now than I was when I came here; I’m more used to absurd things like that.
My freshman year, a group of upperclassmen were walking past my dorm on their way to a frat party as I was returning from Late Nite. One of the men asked the others to hold up as he relieved himself, and, as they stopped, another joined him in urinating on the wall of my dorm. I took immediate offense and called the police to report the indecency. They asked if anyone was hurt or injured, and I told them no. At that point, the operator sounded less interested and replied that someone would be sent out to investigate, and of course, no one came. Presumably, they had better things to do than go looking for people who urinate on residences.
At the time, I felt that nothing in the world could be more important than stopping them from urinating on my building, but after several years of elevators and dorms and stairwells at Stanford that smell of urine, I have become numb to it. It still offends me when someone urinates on an inanimate object in front of me, but I no longer think about doing anything about it. In many ways, I felt the same way when my locked bike was stolen last week in front of my dorm. It was just one more instance of inappropriate behavior that I can do nothing to stop.
What we can do though, if we still find some things inappropriate despite seeing them repeated so many times, is to not repeat those behaviors ourselves. When you go out, set the example for your friends. Don’t drink so much that you vomit or, if you must, at least put your hair up so it won’t get dirty. Don’t steal bikes. Don’t steal phones. Don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you; in fact, go so far as to return things that you find. I cannot even remember the number of lost phones that I’ve returned to owners. Each and every one of us can help make campus better, but don’t get too discouraged if you witness something objectionable or if you lose something. As my good friend Cameron Smith always says: “Don’t take life too seriously!”
Have you ever returned a lost phone to its rightful owner? Tell Sebastain about it at sjgould “at” stanford “dot” edu.