Don't Be An Idiot

With weather colder than Antartica, you could lose your toes along with your dignity

I know what you’re thinking. You want to run Primal Scream because you have something to prove. It’s hard to be at Harvard, where the enormous pond of excellence has relegated your erstwhile big fish persona into washed-out post-superstardom and overwhelming obscurity. And it’s not like your upcoming exam performance is going to rocket you to instant fame. So, you think, I know how to handle this. I’ll take off all my clothes, run around Harvard Yard, and scream. I’ll be a bona fide celebrity by the next morning.

Let me tell you something. Tonight’s forecast features a predicted wind chill factor that will make it feel like 20 degrees below zero. This week has set major Massachusetts records for The Coldest Time Ever, and we are in Massachusetts. Even running outside between your dorm and the dining hall feels like you are ripping the skin off of your face and slamming it into a bucket of ice water. You would be an idiot if you ran Primal Scream tonight. And you might be a dead person, too.

I am beside myself that I can’t keep all of you from idiocy—not to mention likely death. Trust me, I understand your feelings. I was like you once. Tonight I will be warm, and inside trying to study for my medieval history exam, and I can’t help but note the striking chords of chivalric honor—possibly inherited from my distant ancestor King Arthur—in that decision I made this time last year. My future blockmates and I had gathered in a tiny Straus common room to discuss what we had heard rumors about all day. Were we going to run? Were we going to watch? Were we too fat? As each girl, one by one, dismissed the possibility as unbefitting her feminine nature, the King Arthur in me got really, really full of it.

I’m not like them, I thought. I’m better than them. I’m not ashamed of my thighs! I’m going to rock that Yard like King Arthur rocked the infidels, except I won’t be on horseback, and I will be absolutely naked.

An hour later I was naked on my bathroom floor, shivering, unable to breathe, close to vomiting and without a friend in sight. Maybe things would have worked out better if, on my first lap, a group of probably well-meaning guys hadn’t said, “One, Two … Three!!” and then doused me with a bucket of freezing-cold water. Maybe stuff would have been okay if I had remembered to bring a bathrobe, or if I hadn’t been trampled by the freshman crew team one minute into the race.


God wasn’t on my side that night, and neither was Old Uncle Arthur. Indeed, that Arthur has always been a huge prick, don’t you think? Screw Uncle Arthur! Screw your pride! When you wake up the Saturday morning, you won’t have won instant celebrity. You’ll more likely wake up in UHS, with unexplained bruises, pneumonia, bronchitis, and a link in your inbox directing you to the naked pictures of you that are now featured in full color on some C.S. major’s FAS site.

ADDENDUM: A Note To UHS: I am officially informing you—and failure to act on this information could open you up to lawsuits by parents of idiotic kids throughout this College—you must prepare for tonight’s showcase of stupidity: the safety of our student bodies depends on it. For just these few hours, more immediate than the Mental Health Crisis, will be the impending and ravaging Frozen Body Disaster. Please mitigate our indefatigable thick-headedness by stationing ambulances outside the Yard tonight. This is the most selective university in the world, but this is also the home of the Owl.

Elizabeth W. Green is a Fifteen Minutes editor.

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