It began on the night of NOlympics, when I was scheduled to return my New Student Week frisbee to its rightful owner, an inhabitant of Goodhue. After returning the frisbee, I observed a congregation in the Goodhue MegaLounge, cloaked in not only outdoor jackets, but also courage and hope. I inquired as to what they might be seeking at this hour.
The Wells-Fargo ATM in the Arb, of course! If one looked on Google Maps, and searched “ATM near me,” one would find there was a clearly noted Wells Fargo ATM in the thick of Cowling Arboretum. We were all in urgent need of funds, and the ATM in the Arb was, clearly, a better option than the one in Sayles.
As a fellow newcomer to Carleton in need of exactly twenty dollars drawn from an ATM with a light service fee at precisely 9:04 p.m., I immediately signed onto this plan. Luckily, as if in anticipation of this journey, I was wearing rain boots, the yellow rubber kind with chickens patterned on them.
We assigned ourselves numbers so we would not lose track of each other like a veritable herd of sheep. We set off through the dark wilds to the north, looking at Google Maps all the way. At some point, our phones informed us, like so many magic eight balls, we had to make a sharp left from the trail into dense foliage. We followed obsequiously.
We descended into thickets and tall grasses, and finally into calf-deep water. We were nearly there. After hacking through more trees, we at last came into a clearing. There the ATM stood, glorious in its plastic and metal beauty. We began prostrating ourselves in prayer to the night sky, giving thanks for the Earth, hugging each other in a showing of common humanity. We had made it. Unfortunately for us, the machine did not work and dispensed no money. It still deserved deity status, nonetheless.
We cried long and hard, and then we immortalized our struggles in a photograph. We trekked back, this time getting lost and falling into much deeper waters, waters that seemed especially foreboding to new students. We had not yet taken the required four terms of PE at Carleton to strengthen our muscles. My rain boots were sadly too short and flooded with water.
“Don’t forget to check for leeches when you get back to your dorm,” said one of my comrades.
I nodded vigorously, remembering a scene from A Series of Unfortunate Events. “Leeches are used as medical treatments to prevent blood clots because they secrete peptides,” I added helpfully. Some murmured their thanks for leeches and prayed for their continued, happy, and peptide-rich existence within the Arb swamp within which we were mired.
As we emerged from the thigh-deep water onto one of the trails leading back to campus, we looked at each other in collective awe.
Yes, we were the next generation of explorers, the Lawrence McKinley Goulds of our time. One of these days, we too will be blessed with a taxidermied squirrel or leech from our venture to the ATM, proudly bestowed in a glass case on 4th Libe.