“But February made me shiver, with every paper I delivered.” – Don McLean
“Worst February ever!” says… Everybody. Maybe, but February has always been an emotional gauntlet at Hyde. It’s just part of the package. I knew this as a Hyde student. I re-learned it as a rookie faculty member while wielding a shovel during the Blizzard of ’78.
The smart ones just build the hardship into their thinking. And before you insist that 2015’s version of February is in a class by itself, give a read to this piece I wrote 25 years ago:
One of Hyde’s biggest challenges comes in the rather odd form of a block of time. Suffice it to say that somebody knew what he/she was doing whenever the decision was made to make February the shortest of the twelve months.
Yeah, February definitely stands as an obstacle to good kharma here at Hyde. The perennial telltale signs are unmistakable. Take the grit of the road sand, for example. Beginning its journey in the back of a maintenance truck, it is then shoveled on to the many icy driveways winding their way through campus. From there it attaches itself to the soles of an army of L.L. Bean boots only to be scattered throughout the hallways of the Mansion, Field House, and Union where it may well remain until July.
February is also the time of scattered coats. They litter the halls of the academic wing no matter how many hooks we hang on the walls.
Another sign is the condensation on the outer windows of the gym, evidence of the high temperatures inside the wrestling room as Hyde’s athletic ascetics within learn the virtues of the toughest sport they will ever love. (Laura calls February the only time when the guys lose weight and the girls gain it.)
The month even has its own sound: “Thonk… Thonk… Thonk” go the ice chippers in their percussion of penance.
But the tangible signs are outweighed in intensity by the intangible ones. Maybe it’s cabin fever. Maybe it’s the full realization that Snow Days only happen in the Real World. (This is especially disheartening when we observe, while walking to class, the vacated solitude of empty Fisher‑Mitchell School across the street on the day after a big snowstorm.)
Whether it’s wrestling or the tension leading up to the annual Hamilton‑Jefferson debates in Government class, the mood around school turns ugly. There is always a February bust. (I call it the “Annual St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.”) The ethic of the Student Jobs program breaks down. Tensions in the dorms are high. Some say we should close school in February. Others raise the idea of opening a Florida campus. Still others pummel each other with snowballs.
Seasoned veterans of a few February campaigns come to accept the challenge of the month and make the most of it. It is only those experiencing February for the first time who put calendars on their walls and diligently mark off the days until spring vacation. We old‑timers have learned the wisdom of the old aphorism that “a watched pot never boils.” We enter into our own psychological hibernation as if our souls know that “this too, shall pass.” It always has.
That said… er, written… it doesn’t mean we aren’t looking forward to Spring Break!
Onward, Malcolm Gauld