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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Tradition of One

<ppens every term. Suddenly, everything is done: all the readings on the syllabi, all the essays, all the violin juries, all the scribbled notes. And I still have one day left before I leave campus, one precious day when I can wander and be independent and do whatever I doggone well please. It’s a tradition of sorts. A tradition of one.

The day usually goes something like this. Wary of forcing myself out of bed on this sacred day and unwilling to waste more of it than necessary, I get up at the mildly virtuous hour of eight. Without fail, I head to Tandem Bagels and order the Bike Lox bagel, my favorite, loaded with salmon, cream cheese, tomatoes, onions, and capers. Bagel in hand, I sit alone at the window and people-watch.

I poke around in bead shops and art shops and make a brief stop at the vintage clothing store. I buy nothing until I inevitably wind up at the used bookstore where, after a long period of browsing, reading, and considering my options, I purchase something inexpensive from the philosophy section or the poetry section. I strike up a conversation with the bookstore owner and, as he hands me my receipt, I realize that he’s only the second or third person I have spoken to all day.

I head back to campus and decide to meander through the library. I figure that, while everyone else studies, I can poke around the stacks and try to unearth unusual books. (So far, nothing has trumped Queer Cowboys And Other Erotic Male Friendships in Nineteenth Century American Literature.) There’s too much there to see, however, and I make the slow realization that if I’m going to attempt something lonely and Herculean, I may as well attempt to do my laundry.

By the time I’m hauling six weeks worth of laundry down four flights of stairs, I begin to feel a little sorry for myself. As I shove my zebra striped socks and skinny jeans into the washer, I go through my mental rolodex of people I wish I could spend time with. She’s probably working on draft six of an essay on T.S. Eliot…he’s studying for a chemistry final…she’s finishing her final sculpture for studio art…he could be on a plane back to Costa Rica for all I know. Nope, nope, nope, nope, and so on.

I realize that I have turned on the washer without adding the detergent. I also realize that a tradition of one is a piece of dung.

Traditions need community in order to survive, and here at Carleton, our strangest and best traditions flourish when we enjoy them together. Why stage an Ebony dance performance with only one Ebony crawler instead of three hundred? Why steal the bust of Friedrich von Schiller without a band of buddies to back you up? And why get up at four in the morning to play Rottblatt’s boozy baseball game alone?

As I stare the washing machine down, someone walks in and I look up. I know her. This is good. I say hi. I suddenly feel glad that being alone at Carleton isn’t much of a tradition. It happens every term.

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