Title: Violating Chekhov's Gun Rule
Date Occurred: Fall of 1981 through Fall of 1982
Date Written: April 7, 2019
Written By: Joel T. Kant
While I carried some of my belongings, my parents and my siblings carried the rest to my dorm room of 304 Morrow Hall. Dad frowned at a mural painted on a hallway wall that had a slogan next to a stereotypical native American cartoon figure, "When I got here, I didn't know what an Injuneer even was, and now I be one!"
Dad never liked jokes about engineers and bad writing, as he considered his job to involve engineering despite his degree being in physics. He worked hard at his writing in various memos.
The largest item I brought was my prized hand-built bicycle, a Trek. I set up a way to hang that in the closet rather than leave it outside. I had a second beater bicycle, an old Schwinn, that I locked in the bike rack outside Morrow Hall. Although not large, what was heavy was a cast-iron Royal manual typewriter. My family and I had come down in the big Chevy Suburban, which is why there had been room for two bicycles, my other belongings, and the entire family.
My roommate Jason, who I met for the first time, was already unpacking on the half the room he had chosen. Tall and lanky, he gave a good impression to my parents as he arranged his gear neatly.
My parents and siblings soon left for the long drive back to the Village of Biron, over 150 miles away on two-lane, winding country highways. Since I had shown them around campus most thoroughly for more than a couple hours, the other parents were also gone.
Doing a circuit around the rooms as the hallway formed a big rectangle, a big guy with a short haircut common for those in the military declared, "Hey, guys! I'm Randolph. The parents are all gone. It's party time!"
A muscular guy named Gerald remarked, "With what? We need to get a lot more beer."
My roommate Jason said, "I'll wait until this weekend to party. Tomorrow's registration day in the fieldhouse. I don't want to be hung over for that because I might sign up for the wrong courses."
Some agreed with Jason's responsible attitude, while others were ready to party hard that very night. As I heard that, those that wanted to party hard right now did not seem promising for the serious academic attitude that I expected in a dorm building that claimed to specialize in students who chose the difficult major of engineering.
A mustached guy named Charles in the room next door stepped out and remarked, "There are other ways to party than drinking beer."
Charles' roommate Calvin was behind him gave a chuckle at that. At the time, I thought they meant hard liquor, but I was later to learn I was wrong.
Rather than respond to that, a guy from down the hall said, "I'm Fred. I don't want to carry a case of beer all the way from the supermarket. A six-pack won't be enough. It's over a mile away, and it will get heavy for a case. Anybody got a car?"
Another mustached guy said, "My name's Bill. I got a car."
Bill and some others made a beer run to the supermarket. Nevertheless, that Sunday evening was tame and fairly quiet even for those who imbibed heavily.
What was talked about throughout the week was the coming Friday night. It was the first weekend at college, and Monday was the holiday of Labor Day.
Around midweek, Jason told me, "My friends and I have been talking about the bars we will check out this weekend. Do you want to come?"
I said, "No, I can't legally drink."
Jason was clearly surprised as he asked, "Why not?"
I answered, "I'm still seventeen for about a week and a half."
Jason passed on the word, so I was left behind that long first weekend. I did not mind as I already had plenty of homework to do. One class was called Engineering Methods. It introduced programming computers in a language called FORTRAN.
The professor on the first day had done a speech that I have heard is common at most introductory engineering courses across the country. It went something like this, "I want you all to stand up. Yes, really. Now, look to the person at your left and right. Good, you can sit back down and look back up here. Those two people you looked at probably will never be with you graduating as an engineer. Less than a third of you taking this class will ever become an engineer. If you are going to be one of the less than a third that will make it, you will..."
He went on with describing the many hours of hard work it would take. I was determined to be one of the few that did make it.
The Computer Center that I needed to code FORTRAN for that class was closed at five pm on Friday. It would not re-open until one pm on Saturday, then stay open only until four or five pm. I felt being in Morrow Hall, designated in the school propaganda as the best dorm for engineering students, would pay off. It had a computer terminal room of its own! Alas, this was very anti-climactic when I finally tried to use it. It had a solitary DecWriter terminal in a room the size of a large closet. One had to dial in through the phone line. In 1981, it ran at only 300 baud, but I think in Spring 1982 the modem was upgraded to a far more useable 1200 or 2400 baud. A DecWriter is like a printer with a keyboard, but no screen! Whatever you do must be on the 132-column green-barred tractor feed paper. A typical session went through lots of paper. Thus, it would run out so frequently there was often no paper for the DecWriter. I have no idea who was supposed to get paper for it, but I found out regular students who wanted to use it were not permitted to get paper themselves. Getting paper had to go through channels, which in practice meant usually no paper. I thought it sounded good when I read over the literature before I started at Cornfield University, but I knew very little about computers before starting at here. Despite the paper problem, I did regard the DecWriter as a noble intent to fit the claims for the dorm being an engineering dorm.
Outside the front entrance of Morrow Hall stood a totem pole with engineers of various disciplines carved into the pole to show this was the dorm building best suited for engineers. This made more of an impression on most people than the DecWriter terminal hidden in an oversized closet!
By the time my eighteenth birthday got close, I had already concluded the biggest obstacle to academic success for my fellow students on Third West Morrow Hall was likely to be extremely excessive alcohol consumption. The drinking age in Wisconsin was eighteen. Thus, all the Freshman could buy beer legally, but also hard liquor like vodka if they had the cash and desire. A couple weeks into classes, and some of the students on my wing had already missed a slew of classes and gotten terrible grades on their first homework.
Randolph reassured some of the low performers on our wing, "The profs are just trying to scare you. It'll lighten up soon."
Fred said, "I hope you're right."
Gerald put in, "Of course, he's right. Come have something to drink and relax. You seem unnecessarily stressed, Fred."
With all that focus on drinking, I should not have been surprised when it seemed half the wing or more showed up in the hallway outside my room on my birthday.
Randolph seemed to be the organizer and he said, "Joel, tonight you get to drink all you want for free!"
Gerald rubbed his hands with glee and said, "We're going to get you so drunk!"
The car owner named Bill said, "I wish I had a night where others bought my booze."
I thought about the Engineering Methods professor having us look to the faces at the right and the left. I thought about what I had already seen in poor attendance and bad grades.
I said, "Thanks for the offer, guys. However, I don't plan on touching alcohol until I have my engineering degree."
The others didn't seem to believe this. Didn't I understand that they said that all my booze would be free tonight since my birthday?
I stuck to my guns.
Randolph insisted to the others, "Joel won't last a week at that claim."
Gerald replied, "Only homos don't drink beer."
As the group went off to party without me, even Jason shook his head in puzzlement and wandered off with the others.
With drinking so important to the students, I was surprised that although students were permitted to have as many bottles or cans of beer or bottles of any other kind of alcohol in their room as they wanted, what was highly desired was the forbidden fruit of a keg of beer. I recall one guy's room had loads of hard liquor all carefully laid out on the bolster above the bed and more on the dresser top in a way that would outdo most home bars. He probably had thirty or more bottles of hard liquor on display with a particular fondness for various brands of whiskey, and that violated no rules! Yet, a keg of beer would get one in trouble. The fraternities took advantage of this rule as a recruiting mechanism as the frat houses would have kegs of beer at parties.
However, there was an exception. The one way to get a keg into the dorm for a party that had to take place in a designated party room, which was a room in Morrow Hall outside the laundry room on Ground East. A permit had to be applied for. I only recall it happening once in my Freshman year.
Third West Morrow and Third East Morrow applied for the permit together. All the hoops were jumped through, all the proper forms were signed! One Friday or Saturday evening, there was a Third East and West Morrow party in the party room with a keg of beer. I know people on Third West Morrow were looking forward to it for weeks, and I presume also this was the case on Third East Morrow.
I decided it would be socially wise to make an appearance however brief. I dreaded even doing that because I knew I would be hounded to drink a beer every second I was in the room, but I was trying very hard to fit in at least a little better.
When I appeared, the party was fairly far along. Not one woman was in the party room, despite weeks of bragging the place would be full of women. This had been often supplemented with claims the women would get so drunk that they would be easy to bed!
Jason told me that there had been women from Dobson Hall, which is an all-woman dorm building there earlier, but they had already left. He and some friends hoped to see the women again later that night, but I do not know if he clarified if that was to happen at a bar downtown or he expected the women to come back to the party room of Morrow Hall.
Others came over including Gerald. Of course, as predictable as the sun rising, there were demands that I consume a plastic glass of beer from the keg. Instead, I asked for a can of soda pop, and that received great laughter. I was told there was only beer, which is what real men drink! Soda pop was for little kids or gay guys.
While the others seemed to be pushing for me to drink a beer using the claim only gays did not consume alcohol as a mere pressure tactic, the guy named Gerald acted like my non-drinking somehow truly made me gay. He was worse than all the others. He shoved a beer at me while claiming it is a religious duty to attack gays, so I better drink it!
I still refused, but tossing it that it is a religious duty to attack gays scared the daylights out of me!
I was told the keg was rented, so the beer would go to waste if not drunk. The men seemed on a mission to empty that keg!
I then noted was that on the other side of the room, Randolph had put a rubber dong, about three feet long, out the unzippered fly of his pants. Beer in one hand and supporting the rubber toy with the other, he roamed around jabbing other men in the rear end with it! This was met with howls of laughter. Then, he did it without any hand on the rubber dong, just using hip thrusts to jab it into other guys, and the laughter got louder.
Even though I had not said a single word about this behavior but merely noting the direction I was looking, Gerald said admiringly, "It's hilarious how Randolph is making fun of gays!"
He laughed, then expect me to then join in the laughter at Randolph's antics, as yet again he shoved a plastic glass of beer at me.
I said nothing more, did not laugh, turned, and left. Randolph and his rubber dong never got close to me, and I was only in the party room a few minutes. Still, I find it remarkable that this was treated as normal, healthy, heterosexual behavior, but refusing to have a beer was considered proof of homosexuality! I was not surprised any women that had been there earlier had left quickly! I figured that chance for any of the women to come back was nil!
I was later told by my roommate Jason that the keg had not been emptied, but they had sure given it the old college try! I also got him to sheepishly admit that he had not seen any of the women later that night.
My English professor Dr. Buck required all papers be typed. One day, I was typing away on one of these papers. I assume from the sound of the typewriter, Randolph and Gerald came over.
Randolph said as a statement of fact, "You can type pretty well."
I replied, "I had a typing class in high school."
Randolph remarked, "I never learned to type. Could you type this up for me?"
I looked over. He had a stack of about five sheets of handwritten paper.
I replied, "Not for free."
Gerald poked Randolph and said, "Told you."
Randolph said, "I'll give you a six-pack of beer."
"No thanks. You know I don't drink alcohol. Look, I don't need much. Say, fifty cents a page?"
I mistakenly thought Randolph would go for that, as I figured the beer he offered must have cost more than fifty-cents a page.
"The six pack or nothing," Randolph said.
I shrugged, then went back to my own typing.
Gerald told Randolph but clearly targeted at me, "Only girls can type well. That and gay guys! Being able to type well proves it just as much as refusing the beer."
Annoyed, I said, "Would you two go away? I am trying to concentrate. Close the door on your way out."
A few weeks later, it was supper time. I was heading toward Glenview Commons later than normal, although it was still open for about half an hour. I was busy with some academic task that I wanted to complete before going to supper.
About five of guys all from Third West Morrow came out, including Gerald and Randolph. Some were carrying apples and oranges for consumption later. Then, they noticed me coming toward the cafeteria.
Gerald yelled out a homosexual slur at me, then tossed an orange. It struck me, and bounced off harmlessly.
Randolph followed this cue, hitting me on the head with an apple. He also shouted a slang term for being gay.
I found a door that was open into the cafeteria. The other three had joined in the gay insults. At least one more piece of fruit hit me, then I was through the door and among people. Being around others, the tossing of fruit ended, or maybe they had just run out of it.
Somehow, I survived that semester. I was even on the Dean's List. I was surviving in engineering so far.
Although it had seemed nearly everybody on the Third West wing of Morrow Hall had a declared major of some flavor of engineering in Fall 1981, when the Spring 1982 semester started in January, quite a few on that wing had already changed their major to something other than engineering. Most of the others still in engineering had done so badly last semester that few were ever going to survive all the way to a bachelor's degree in engineering.
Each wing of the dorm had an assigned older student, typically a senior, who was supposed to watch over his wing of the building. That was supposed to keep a lid on too much harassment. He was called the R.A., which stands for Resident Assistant. [In grad school, R.A. means something different as Research Assistant, but there was no grad school at Cornfield University.]
Then, there was a person overseeing the whole building, known as the R.D., which stands for Resident Director. Something odd with Morrow Hall was that it was co-ed. As a university at that time, Cornfield University had about four male students to every one female student. The ratio was far worse in courses intended for engineering or the hard sciences.
One dorm building, Dobson Hall, was 100% female. Many dorm buildings were 100% male. Since Morrow Hall was supposed to be targeted more for engineering students than any other dorm building, one wing, First Floor East, was for women only. Showing efforts to get women more involved in engineering seemed important, so this one wing of the engineering dorm had been changed to be only for females.
Thus, women were allowed to live in this dorm building that theoretically was targeted for engineering students. Going along with this, one person was placed in charge of the entire building. This job title was Resident Director, or R.D. The R.D. was the boss of all the R.A.'s.
There were nine wings occupied by student rooms in Morrow Hall. Each floor was separated by the designation of East wing or West wing. There were ten wings total, but Ground East was for a party room, laundry room, workout room, and storage rooms without any dorm rooms.
While the biggest problem with surviving academically in engineering seemed extreme excess and habitual use of huge quantities of ethanol, another problem for some students was wide availability of illegal drugs on my wing.
Although the evidence of regular drug use and drug dealing in the room next to mine seemed more than ample to me, it was an era where reporting drug use was considered snitching. It really and truly could get one killed!
The two guys next door...let's call them Charles and Calvin...usually seemed to not put any effort to keeping their love of drugs secret. However, other times, usually late at night around when people came back after bar time of two am, they'd scream at anybody they thought might "narc."
My understanding was "narc" was a noun short for narcotics agent, but Charles and Calvin also used as a verb, a synonym of snitch.
While marijuana was popular, Charles and Calvin also extolled the virtues of many other illegal drugs. It seemed the only one they hated was heroin.
Both Charles and Calvin expressed a belief that both loved to tell all who they could get to listen to a distinction between physiologically and psychologically addictive. Their idea was certain drugs like nicotine in tobacco and heroin created a physical need to continue using them, with this being physiologically addictive. For ethanol, he seemed to think there were a few people who were genetically defective so would get physiologically addicted to it, so then become alcoholics, but the vast majority of people could have as much alcohol as they pleased with no physiological risk whatsoever. The heavy drinkers of Third West Morrow loved agreeing with both of them with this idea.
Both of them then claimed most illegal drugs like cocaine, marijuana, LSD, most psychedelics, and so on had zero physiological risk to them, unlike the legal drug of tobacco. Thus, if somebody ends up hooked on any of these drugs, then he claimed it is a pure psychological addiction coming from a pre-existing mental condition.
The room next door contained many hookahs and other strangely-shaped smoking pipes, little glass mirrors, and other paraphernalia were on display in his room like proud trophies. There were also underground comics that glorified drug use like Fabulous Furry Freak brothers lying around. They also had many copies of a magazine that I think was titled High Times. If not that, it was some pro-drug magazine like that. This casual display seemed quite counter to the regular warnings they gave to those on the wing not to "narc."
Reporting what was going on in the room next door myself was far too frightening to consider, as surely there would be dangerous repercussions! I was always scared there would be a raid, and although I would have nothing to do with it, those living next door might not realize that. That kind of thing could get one killed.
The R.A. of our wing seemed in that room next door very often, and not for discipline!
The drug dealers also had an electric guitar with portable amplifier in their rooms. It was explicitly against the dorm rules to have an electric guitar with amp. I think it was Charles's guitar. However, I had figured out last semester that rules mean nothing at all if on the good side of the R.A.!
Especially around one or two am, Charles liked to play his electric guitar, loudly and badly. Sometimes, he let Calvin play it, and Calvin was much worse. This was part of their routine for entertaining the steady parade of many guests to their room.
The R.A. also liked to borrow and play the same guitar, but he played it much better than the others, in my opinion. If the electric guitar playing sounded good, then I assumed the R.A. was over there again.
I gather the reasoning that Charles and Calvin had on how drugs had no actual physiological addiction other than the legal drug of tobacco with its nicotine and the illegal drug of heroin with practically every other illegal drug having no physiological addiction risk but only according them a psychological risk if mentally screwed up already sounded good to lots of people.
I thought their reasoning had a lack of provability to it. Their claim was addiction (with the exception of heroin and nicotine) was from a pre-existing mental illness so not the fault of the kinds of drugs. How can one prove or disprove that? If a user of cocaine acts in a way that most would define as addiction, then can one retroactively show the person did or did not meet a pre-existing mental illness?
[It was not until I was in grad school that I read of a mechanism for physiological addiction for cocaine. Cocaine use floods the brain with dopamine. The human body sensing too much builds more dopamine receptors to remove the excess to maintain homeostasis. Eventually, when not using cocaine, there is an imbalance between regular amount of dopamine and the increased number of dopamine receptors. Eventually, a small maintenance dose of cocaine may be needed just to feel normal. This was not known in 1982, though.]
As a sample story from Charles from when it was around the first or second week of my Freshman year so I had not yet realized to avoid Charles and Calvin like the plague, Calvin claimed he and buddies had been in a kitchen with a tile floor. Not sure where this kitchen was supposed to be. He claimed he and his buddies pulled the tiles off the floor, playing catch and juggling them. Once they came down from the effect of the drugs, all the tiles were still firmly attached to the floor just as they always had been, even though he and his buddies all claim to have shared the same experience of the tiles being tossed around. The others around when I heard this from him acted like this was a profound mystical experience that they wished they could have as well! What drug does this? Do you have some? I thought the revelation it was all an illusion made the guy sound like an idiot, and I should find someplace else to go...right now! Anywhere else! I left, of course, never hearing the answer to the question of if he had some!
My second semester of my Freshman year, I had a new roommate with the same first name as my roommate from my first semester, Jason.
Besides Second Jason, I also learned of a group in another dorm building named Morrow Hall who played Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) and related games. I did not know any of the D&D players my first semester, although I had played with with people younger than myself the summer of 1981 before I started college. The person I met first for the D&D crowd was Josh Cistern, who showed me his Commodore Vic-20 personal computer. That was in the room shared by Josh and his roommate Albert Rose. Their room of 402 Wilgus Hall was the most common location of the D&D games, although sometimes in a larger shared communal room down the hall from their room.
Back to Third West Morrow Hall where I lived, there was another guy named Randolph. When he was under the influence, he liked to show off a 45-caliber handgun. He told all who would listen about the caliber, the number of rounds that fit in the clip, the way to use the safety, and so forth. Randolph regularly spent time in the ROTC building.
Having a handgun in a dorm room went hugely against the dorm rules, even more than the electric guitar. However, rules seemed meaningless words on a sheet of paper since there seemed no enforcement. The rules seemed to exist merely to be something to point at to appease worried parents. They did not seem related whatsoever to actual daily life in Third West Morrow Hall!
Randolph was the only one I knew with a handgun in the dorm room. However, I knew of a few other students who during deer season (November, I think) would keep a rifle in their room. That was against the rules as well, but everybody who knew of the guns seemed deliberately blind to it. During deer season, the guys with rifles would get together with somebody with a car to go out hunting. Not being a hunter myself, I never learned what land they hunted on. Yet, I never heard of the deer hunters coming back after two am for bar time, then flashing their rifles all around the wing!
I think to accommodate deer hunters, after my Freshman year, the powers-that-be at Cornfield University available with lockable lockers for rifles so not kept in the dorms, and reluctance to leave rifles in cars in the parking lot overnight. I think the lockable lockers came after my Freshman year, though. Either that or the guys I knew with rifles in their room during deer season simply refused to use or trust those lockers.
Ever hear a newly-engaged woman showing off her diamond ring as if almost of more value to her than life itself? That was about how some of the deer-hunting guys treated their precious deer-hunting rifles! So, trusting the rifles to a locked car trunk or a lockable locker might not be good enough for them!
[I doubt these days of many school shootings that even at Cornfield University a drunk waving off his handgun would be treated with such a blas‚ attitude even if he was in ROTC!]
Randolph liked hanging out in the room next door as well, but I do not think he could play the electric guitar, nor even attempted it. I think Charles, Calvin, and the R.A. were the guitar players.
One thing was for other students to join in in the drugs in the room next door at least occasionally seemed a way to prove one was "okay." It seemed thought even a one-time user could not be the feared "narc," informant, or snitch. Those students had a belief that any user they personally witnessed using was safe because the person's own use could be used against him. They described it in terms like, "He is an okay guy," or "He is a good guy."
I never touched the illegal drugs, so I was to Charles, Calvin, and their close friends not "okay" and not "good." To them, I never would be. Charles even told me if his room was ever raided, he'd assume it was me! He'd get Randolph's gun and shoot me dead!
However, given the very real dangers of being thought a snitch if there ever was a raid, perhaps the occasional users might have saved their own lives by "trying" or "experimenting" to prove they were "okay" and "good." Despite the dangers of trying even once, it might have been wise to do that for physical safety's sake! That's an aspect of the War on Drugs that seems to have gotten left out of Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaign of that time! Just saying no can get one killed! Trying even once, if you can avoid addiction, might save one's life since supposed proof one was not the "snitch" if there was a raid.
Charles, Calvin, and their crowd were so blatant that I saw no need for any snitch at all for the authorities to figure it out if the powers-that-be had made the most trivial attempt. However, similar to how drunk drivers in that era never, ever seemed to get caught, it seemed similar for illegal drug distribution. Fortunately for me given Charles's threats against me that since I would not "try" a drug that if there ever was a drug raid, they would assume I had informed and kill me over it, there never was a raid!
In a weird way, I am glad the War on Drugs was so badly carried out that no raid ever did happen in the room next door! I would rather be alive and know illegal drugs were regularly dealt from the room next door then be murdered [I took those threats VERY seriously, and still think I was right to take them seriously 37 years later] in a mistaken belief that I had done the informing rather than their own lack of even the most basic precautions for maintaining secrecy!
One Saturday, my second roommate, Second Jason, told me he was going to an event called twenty-four hours of movies. It was at the Student Union. [I suppose in later days of VHS, DVD, and Blu-Rays, this event would not be popular to the point of nearly pointless. The activity of a full day of movies was fairly popular at that time, though.]
As usual, things got noisy around the two am bar time. The stereos blared as usual. Also, as usual, things seemed to settle down around three am. I went to bed, alone in my room.
Suddenly, there was loud pounding on my door. As I groggily got up, I heard laughter. Looking under the door, the towels to prevent shaving cream from being sprayed under the door with the manila envelope trick were undisturbed. I touched them. There was no shaving cream on them. I moved the towel and looked out the door. All the doors, up and down the hallway, were closed. All the stereos were off. Things seemed quiet.
I guessed this was going to continue for some time, just waiting long enough that the jokesters would think I had fallen asleep. I moved a desk chair next to the door. I got out a novel and started reading.
After just one loud knock, I threw the door open. A foot from my face was Gerald, his arm still held up to keep knocking. He seemed confused that the door had moved away from his fist, not yet registering I was looking right at him. He then looked into my face. He then turned, and ran down the hall. He went into a room with an open door.
I followed him, not running. I looked in the room. There was the expected crew: Randolph, Charles, Calvin, Gerald, and others.
I said, "Please, it's three-thirty in the morning. Would you stop pounding on my door?"
Rather than a spoken response, Gerald leapt up and ran hard at me. He struck me hard, so I went out the door and slammed into the wall of the hallway opposite the door. He put both his hands on my throat and squeezed with all his might as he shouted, "Die, you fag!"
As he kept choking and shouting homosexual slurs, Charles and Calvin ran up to him. Each grabbed one of Gerald's arms and pulled with all their might. Finally, they got him off me. Randolph just stayed seated, as if in shock.
Gerald pleaded for the other guys to let him kill me as a fag like me deserved.
Coughing from the choking, I staggered a few steps, then ran down the hall as my breathing cleared a little.
I ran to my room and locked the door. The moment I locked the door, I called the R.D. on the phone.
What was considered good, clean fun back then but gives me shudders to think about if there had been a fire was called, "Pennying shut a door."
This was done to quite a few people, and all the others apparently thought it was hilarious. With the victim inside his room, usually when asleep, a few strong guys would shove hard on the stout door, I believe of solid oak. As this was done, small stacks of pennies would be wedged between the steel doorframe and the solid oak door. This put intense pressure on the deadbolt between the door and the doorframe. Usually, after this was completed, the person inside the room could not put enough force on the lock lever to disengage it. He would be trapped until somebody from the outside removed the pennies with something like a screwdriver. To top this off, usually with the victim still asleep, their phone would be called. The person who made the call would laugh, and then just set the receiver down next to the phone without hanging up. That tied up the phone line forever for the person inside the room because of the primitive phone system of that era.
How long the victim was trapped in the room was dependent on various factors. It was usually a matter of hours, from a couple hours to eight hours. I gather much of the "humor" was in how many courses the victim was forced to miss by being trapped, with it more "funny" with more classes missed.
Those victims who went through this "initiation" were supposed to respond with good humor and without visible anger. If they pulled that off, they were considered "okay."
The greatest desire of most male students I knew at Cornfield University was to have other male students describe them as "okay."
I was doing terrible at that!
I heard a story from one guy from another dorm building who had this done to him. He had bunkbeds made of 4"x4" posts. He said he and his roommate somehow with the bunkbed parts had put a lot of counter-force on the door, then were able to get the door lock to release. He was very proud to have escaped rather than wait for one of the pranksters to come hours later and pry out the pennies.
I had fully expected to have to go through that myself eventually. I used lubricants from my tool kit from my fancy handbuilt Trek bicycle that I kept in my closet to make the deadbolt very slippery. Yet, for the entire semester that First Jason had been my roommate, there had been no pennying instance to our room despite it being done to others on our wing.
In hindsight, like I said, having somebody deliberately trapped on the fourth floor if there were a fire is a terrifying idea to me! I suppose young undergrad guys do not really think of fire as even a remote possibility, and how it could rightly be judged a murder if somebody trapped that way were to die if there were a fire!
I should explain after my former roommate and his new roommate pried the grip off my throat from Gerald, and I retreated to my room, locked the door, and immediately phoned the R.D., what I was overhearing was some others trying to calm down the clearly enraged Gerald to placate him with the lesser "joke" of pennying shut the door.
Although there were no peepholes in the door, from sounds and movement of the door, it was clear pennying was indeed what was being done even as I was talking to the Resident Director (R.D.). She said that I should not be so upset. She'd be up and take the pennies out. I simply could not seem to get her to comprehend that the serious problem was the physical assault where I had been choked hard. My throat hurt so much that it was hard to talk still when I was on the phone. She claimed I was clearly exaggerating about being choked.
She said, "This was just a harmless initiation. Going through it will cause the guys to accept you. Relax."
While still on the phone with her that is when the sound on the other side door changed drastically. It sounded like it being pounded on with an axe! The R.D. easily and clearly heard it on the phone!
I think it is a pretty close quote that she exclaimed, "What the hell's that?"
I replied, "It sounds like they were chopping through the door with an axe!"
She hung up. Then, I hung up and opened the phone book to find the number for the actual police! I felt I had to reach them before the axe went through the door, or I would end up dead!
[In those days, one could not simply call 911! I had to look up the phone number for the police.]
I had just found the phone number for the police when my phone rang. Picking it up, that's when I got the laughter. My phone was locked out.
I wondered why the lockout with the phone when it sounded like my door was being attacked with an axe, though? Were my peers on this wing really that sick in the head and violent?
The pounding and shaking of the door continued. Then, there was a loud commotion. The R.D. and several R.A.'s from other wings had arrived. For me, it was like the arrival of the cavalry. After identifying themselves through the door, they said that they would pry out the pennies.
The men who had been outside the door clearly had not known I had gotten a phone call in to the R.D. before one of them got my phone line tied up.
I said back through the door to let me try the lock first since I knew I had it so well lubricated. Sure enough, I was able to twist the lever and open the door. As I opened the door, many pennies rained down. This is then when I finally learned it had not been an axe, but a hammer used against the door. There were hammer dents on the outside of the door. Although, the door had been quite damaged, it was not the kind of damage that axe blows would have made. There seemed little danger the hammer could have penetrated that thick oak door.
My second roommate, Second Jason, was not there when the door was pounded with the hammer. He was still at his twenty-four hours of movies. He would later last about fourteen of the twenty-four hours.
I was pressured by the R.D. not to contact the police over this door-pounding incident. As I recall, her explanation was that it ended up being a hammer rather than an axe...a difference I could not tell earlier since there was no peephole in the door...made it an "initiation," so not a police matter. She emphasized they really could not break through a solid oak door with a hammer no matter how hard they pounded on it, so there was no real danger. She insisted it was all a joke; all an "initiation" that went just a little too far. Yet, the door was damaged by the hammer blows, and she insisted it would be replaced!
Although she and the R.A.'s had caught the man pounding on my door with a hammer red-handed, she would not tell me who it was.
Then and now, I do not get the "joke." In my opinion foolishly, I reluctantly did agree to the pleas from the R.D. (an authority figure to me at the time) to keep the police out of it.
A few days later, the door of 304 Morrow Hall was indeed replaced. I was relieved the new door was just as thick and strong as the previous door. It was stained a much darker color than the other doors on this wing of the dorm.
Some weeks after the door pounding, my former roommate, the first Jason, let me know that Randolph had been pounding on the door with the hammer when the R.D. and R.A's showed up. The first Jason said that when Randolph got drunk, he would loudly blame me for the several-hundred-dollar bill he got for the door replacement. He strongly recommended I stay away from the wing if I noticed Randolph was drunk. He acted genuinely scared for my safety. He knew of Randolph's handgun.
Because I now knew of the D&D crowd meeting in Wilgus Hall (a different dorm) that I had met in January through Josh Cistern, I was able to do this as they played their games even longer than the two am closing time of the bars.
It is even possible being away with the D&D crowd at those times could have saved my life. Even now, I do not think my sense of intense danger when on Third West Morrow was wrong or even exaggerated.
As a reason I do not think it was exaggerated is after the door-pounding incident, once my second roommate left the door unlocked when he went to the restroom. I was not around. Somebody snuck in and scratched into the wood shelves above my desk, "Spokes dies!"
That nickname came because I had a fancy, expensive, handbuilt Trek touring bicycle in my closet, and then a much cheaper Schwinn for using around campus.
A carved death threat seems serious to me, especially given the context of what had come before! I was scared to report it because I thought that would make it more likely it would be carried out! I thought Randolph still kept his handgun in his room at this time.
However, perhaps lessening the danger, coming back one day to my Third West Morrow wing after the Spokes Dies carving had been done, not on a Friday or Saturday night but just some normal weekday evening, I heard a fellow student ask Randolph to see his handgun. Randolph said that he did not have it in his room anymore. He said the gun actually belonged in a locker in the ROTC building, and he had learned there were going to be inspections.
Randolph noticed I was down the hallway, eavesdropping, and glared at me. He did nothing more than glare, this being a relatively sober time for him, it seemed.
In fiction writing, there is something called Chekhov's Gun Rule. Roughly, if a gun appears in a work of fiction, then it should be used by the last act. Otherwise, it should not be in the story. For this real-world story, I never again saw Randolph's handgun. I never saw it fired even once. It violates Chekhov's Gun Rule! I am glad it does! Yet, seeing that handgun created much fear in me.
For my stories about my time at Cornfield University, I seldom give enough credit for the good people. A guy that I will call Noah lived in a different floor of the same building, but also had trouble trying to study in the heavy-partying environment. He and a group of students...not me, as I only learned of this late in its development...had one wing of Morrow converted to a "Consideration Wing" for the upcoming 1982-1983 school year. The floor selected was Ground West Morrow. One had to petition to be on the wing. It had a lot of rules, like one could only listen to music through headphones. For my sophomore year, I moved down to Ground West Morrow.
To my complete astonishment when I lived there, the strict rules were mostly followed even the rules that seemed so minor and petty when up on Third West Morrow so the same building, rules about a handgun in a room and an electric guitar with large amp played in the room were violated continually without any repercussions!
Ground West Morrow of my sophomore year was a huge contrast to Third West Morrow! Nearly everybody in Ground West Morrow with a declared major of some flavor of engineering went sailing on through without changing majors! I cannot think of a single example of a student who in the last week of August of 1982 in that wing that said they were studying engineering was not doing well with their major still being engineering by the end of the school year in mid-May of 1983!
I should put more focus on being extremely grateful for people like Noah for taking effective action with the creation of the "Consideration Wing" than angry and bitter at people like Randolph, Charles, Calvin, and Gerald.
Noah was an insulin-dependent diabetic. He explained to me if he were to drink the massive quantities of alcohol the way many of the other students did, that could kill him. Yet, he still received heavy peer-pressure to drink like that even after explaining his illness! For Noah, the peer-pressure that you must drink alcohol and lots of it was a far more serious issue than for me! If I were to give in, I most likely would suffer a bad hang over.
Near the start of my sophomore year when I was on Ground West Morrow, I did have one last major encounter with the Third West Morrow crowd.
There were a few minor encounters first. One time, a few of them came down Third West Morrow to the Consideration Wing on Ground West. I was there, and my dorm room door was open. They started shouting insults at me. Noah and his roommate opened their own door, and told the interlopers simply to be quiet. Noah explained it was against the rules to talk in the hallways. He talked calmly, but firmly.
To my utter amazement, it worked! It seems crazy given how insane those Third West Morrow guys who had come down, I thought Noah's quiet remark would have no effect or cause overt hostility, but they did not argue with Noah. They just turned and left, muttering of the insanity of not allowing talking the hallway! Yet, Noah was about my size, not very imposing.
There had been a couple incidents quite similar to that, with similarly quick endings once anybody else appeared from the Consideration Wing when guys from Third West Morrow showed up whether Noah or any others.
Then, one day when the weather was nice, I was in the room working at my desk with the window wide open for catching a breeze. There was no air-conditioning in these dorm buildings. A few of the Third West Morrow crowd from outside my room started shouting insults and threats at me. Gerald shouted that I had a bicycle out here, did any of them know which one it was so they could destroy it? Gerald was back to saying I was gay, so I deserved it.
Either they did not know the bicycle or it was a ploy to get my outside where I would be more vulnerable.
I do not think it was Noah, but somebody else from the Consideration Wing came to my room due to the noise. The newcomer had not even said one word yet, just entered my room, but the group outside the window saw another person in my room, so immediately dispersed.
Waiting an hour or so to be sure they were really gone from outside my window, I locked my door and went out. My cheap Schwinn that I used on campus was untouched.
Within two days, though, my cheap Schwinn had the spokes kicked out so the wheel rims where shaped like pretzels. The handlebars were bent so one grip almost touched the other. I could see even the frame of the bicycle was clearly not straight anymore. Even the crank had been bent so one of the pedals was visibly very crooked.
That was when I finally had enough of keeping the police out of this! I made the call. I was told an officer would soon be there. One officer, a woman, was there in under ten minutes. Although the woman officer at first seemed to act like this was going to be a routine report about a vandalized bicycle, when she saw the actual condition of it, she commented something like, "Somebody must really hate you!"
I explained who really hated me and why. I told her of what Gerald had threatened to the bicycle just two days before, with witnesses from this wing.
This led to a meeting with Gerald, myself, and the head of student housing, with a police report on his desk as well as some other files and forms.
That was a fascinating meeting unlike any in my life before or after it. The head of student housing, Mr. Robeson, first had me tell my story. It was shorter than this, but had the essentials with the choking, hammer, replaced door, threats, and mangled bicycle. I did leave out that Randolph sometimes kept a handgun and the drug dealing in the room next door, as I feared Randolph might find out somehow and retaliate using that handgun if I mentioned those parts of the story! I was still too scared to tell that part.
Mr. Robeson pulled out what I think was a photocopy of the bill for the replacement of my dorm room door that had gone to Randolph, and seemed to have been paid.
Once allowed to talk, Gerald was full of denials and counter-accusations against me. One point he made that I thought was valid was it was Randolph who had been caught hammer in hand outside my door, not him, so why wasn't Randolph at this meeting? After all, the evidence for the bill was right there in black and white.
Rather than debate, Mr. Robeson pulled out a document and told Gerald to read it aloud. Confused, Gerald resisted and tried bringing up his denials again with asking why he was there rather than Randolph. There was no proof according to Gerald other than my statement that he had threatened to vandalize my bicycle then days later it was. He said that I had simply lied about that.
Mr. Robeson still insisted that he wanted this read contract by Gerald, aloud. Mr. Robeson seemed patient, and disinterested in whatever else Gerald had to say until he complied with the read-aloud instructions.
Eventually, Gerald read aloud what he was directed to read. Mr. Robeson then said he was going to explain what this meant. This was part of the housing contract that had been signed by Gerald and his parent or guardian. Mr. Robeson said that what it boiled down to is this contract granted him the power to kick out of the dorms anybody he wanted! This was not a criminal court; it did not have to be. He did not need indisputable proof of any wrongdoing, and that page of contract was why he did not!
I certainly did not know what to make of this! I had expected a long session of claims and counterclaims, denials, justifications, and so forth. I remembered being in the vice-principal's office in high school. I had been attacked in the lunch room. In that, the vice-principal had let the guy talked for a while, then asked a few questions seemingly just for clarification, and soon had that bully locked into blatant contradictions of his own statements, trapped by his own lies, which had apparently been too many for him to keep track of, but the vice-principal had kept track! That was what I expected, not a requirement to read-these-paragraphs aloud! I guessed my best approach was to keep quiet until asked to speak!
Gerald seemed equally puzzled. Gerald then claimed this was not right. He could not be kicked out of the dorms without proof, trial, witnesses, or any of that other stuff.
Mr. Robeson told him to read that page again, aloud. Gerald refused this second time.
Mr. Robeson got out a form and started filling it out. Gerald asked what he was doing. He said it was a form to have somebody removed from student housing! I think it really was just that.
Gerald abruptly changed his tune, and read the passage aloud for a second time.
Mr. Robeson stopped writing, and then further deciphered some of the legalese to support his claim of his interpretation!
Gerald then started to say that while it wasn't him who vandalized my bicycle, he might be able to find out who it was. Personally, I doubted it was anybody but him, but I kept my mouth shut. I suspected Gerald was going to do the throw-a-friend-to-the-wolves trick. So far, I had had almost no input other than telling a short version of my story once to start the meeting!
Mr. Robeson said that he wasn't interested in finding that out!
To me, that simple statement spoke volumes about how unlike many of the others I had been dealing with, this man saw a bigger picture than a destroyed bicycle and replaced dorm room door! The loss of the bicycle was a comparatively trivial matter.
I am not sure how much was stage play and how much exactly what it looked like, but Mr. Robeson eventually relented on finishing filling out the expulsion from the student housing form.
After this, there was not one more threat against me. That means not one more note slipped under the door. Not one more phone call that I would die. Not one more act of vandalism after this meeting with the head of student housing. Not just from Gerald, but not from ANYBODY for the rest of my time at Cornfield University! If I saw any of the core Third West Morrow groups approaching on the sidewalk, they would conspicuously turn and walk in a different direction after this meeting!
Also, I do not know if relates to what happened to me personally or not, but a hole was drilled in every door of every dorm room of every dorm building with an optical peephole installed like the doors in most apartment buildings.
It seems a miracle to me that instead of building up to an irrevocable tragedy with great violence using the Chekhov's Gun Rule about a gun for my time at Cornfield University, instead things eventually tamed down!
I have Noah, Albert Rose, various D&D players, Josh Cistern who introduced me to the D&D players, various members of the TKE fraternity, the woman cop that took the situation seriously once she saw the mangled bicycle, various other students from the Consideration Wing, the head of student housing at Cornfield University, and others to thank for the eventual peaceful outcome when it seemed all that was possible at the time was an inescapably eventual bloody and violent conclusion!
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