“SNACK HUT!” In one anagrammically delicious moment, my friend M had solved the mystery plaguing us since breakfast at Runk dining hall our 4th year. All morning we’d pondered how the marquee outside could have provided the resources for an impish dining hall goer to spell out “nut sack.” I had looked at her questioningly, and she turned away from CNN to say excitedly, “Nuuuuuut saaaaaaack! Ugh, alright Colin Powell, stop talking and let us see the weather report.” “You’re calling Colin Powell a nut sack?” I said, pointing at him speaking on the TV. “Huh? What about Colin Powell’s nut sack?” “Huh?” And so started the most quintessentially college treatment of natural disaster that Charlottesville had ever seen.
That evening, Hurricane Isabel hit Central Virginia. Most of us were ready. People had lined up at the grocery stores for hurricane necessities in a style reminiscent of the typical Virginia preparation for 2 inches of snow. Every store in town was sold out of Hurricane malt liquor, M and I had bought enough toilet paper and water to faux paper mache every inch of the ceiling, and our hatches were as battened-down as an apartment with an entire wall of windows could be. Students and townspeople alike were skeptical about the impact of a hurricane on an area so far inland, but after living there through a drought, two earthquakes, a massive snowstorm, and every type of natural state in between, who were we to judge?
After the electricity’s last gasp, M and I whipped out our flashlights and played flashlight tag, waiting for the alleged hurricane to come along. It didn’t take long for torrents of rainfall and gusty winds to assault the drainagely-challenged town and create more mud then you could shake one of the sticks slamming against your window at. Nervous about trees, cows, and other things that sail through the air in bad weather coming through the windows, we moved everything breakable and valuable into a more interior room, and huddled somberly in her bed watching “Top Secret !”on a laptop.
Things calmed down outside, and the hurricane passed over us. The students, festive with a few Hurricanes in their bellies, ventured outside. What one soon discovered was that, if you ignored fallen trees, strewn belongings, and down power lines, there was a wealth of fun to be had in the couple feet of mud that UVA grounds had been reduced to. The next day, the sunlight filtered through the remaining trees spotlighting abandoned flip flops lodged in drying mud, Hurricane bottles, an unfortunate North Face rain jacket stuck on a branch, and thousands of footprints fossilized across Grounds.
If only we could all stay in an age and mindset where even forces of nature can be cause for a theme party. Too often in the Real World we’re bogged down by the minutiae of life like traffic, deadlines, bills, and never having enough time. One has to question whether we truly don’t have enough time anymore to stay up late laughing with friends, enjoy a meal that doesn’t come from a drive-thru, and get together just for the heck of it or if we’ve lost the sense of what is a true priority in life. If the students at UVA had chosen to be sensible and stay inside during a storm instead of getting out and experiencing one of the few hurricanes Charlottesville will ever see, all they would have to show for their supposed good sense is less laundry and maybe a complete pair of flip flops. Life’s bigger than the everyday tasks. In 40 years, we won’t remember the project we’re spending weekends at the office to finish, the errands we have to run, or the guy who cut us off in traffic. Freedom doesn’t end unless we say so, and sometimes you have to squish a little mud between your toes to remember that.