Gromotka: Your studying is a lie, part II

BY ADAM GROMOTKA | MAY 12, 2014 5:00 AM

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My goal was simple: return to the Main Library during finals week to find at least a single instance of productive, not overly consuming studying, to root out some sort of proof that such an occurrence could exist during the weekend preceding final exams. I arrived with colleague Eric at 11:40 p.m. May 10. Hopefully, that would be late enough to witness a large, slap-happy crowd of psychos still attempting to “study.”

We reached the library, and I began to worry. Thanks to prior research, I knew that the appropriate late-night outfit for studying in a public place would represent school spirit and provide a sleepover level of comfort — a Hawkeye T and some sort of sweatpants or gym shorts. I was overdressed — I’d be recognized as an outsider straightaway. Fortunately, the residents of the library were far too concerned with filling their bodies with empty calories to notice me at all.

Inside, there were containers everywhere. Any consumable liquid you could imagine: Starbucks, Naked fruit juice, bottles of water — disposable or not — and every variety of can designed to store and deliver caffeine. They speckled the Star Trek-like architecture of the commons area like zits on a prom queen. We sat down in armchairs near the northeastern corner of the building. Eric began sketching. He stopped.

“Did you see that they sell Baja Blast in cans now?” He pointed to a girl sitting at a nearby table. Sure enough, there sat a pastel-green can of the goop. She picked it up, knocked it back, and set it down with an empty clang that cut through the clacking from surrounding computer stations.

“No shit?” We decided to leave to find more action. A stop at the bathroom provided proof of the night’s work. Sitting atop the recycle/landfill station by the restrooms was a mountain of containers.

The slots had been filled to bursting hours earlier, so a pyramid of garbage was constructed, each individual delicately balancing his  or her trash and adding to the structure — a monolithic offering to gods of rote consumption. “This is everything we need,” I said before snapping a picture. This was affirmation of my generation’s mantra: Consumption equates productivity. How many greasy burrito wrappers did it take to ace a test? How many cans of Red Bull to edit a term paper?

While Eric attended to his business, I decided to preserve the journalistic integrity of my piece. I marched up to a girl with Greek letters on her shirt sitting at a nearby desk, leaned over and asked, “What are you studying?” She seemed taken aback. Perhaps the sight of a sweaty man-child with a freshly buzzed head was too sudden and overwhelming.

“What?” “What are you studying? How are you studying?” I eyed the laptop set to Facebook, her three plastic Starbucks cups, and the few granola wrappers that surrounded her textbook. Nothing, it seemed. Before she could answer, Eric returned from the restroom. I grabbed his arm, and we rushed away. The elevator. Maybe a higher floor would provide a reprieve from this wastefulness, a heaven above the madness.

The fifth floor offered the same scene: eating, drinking, mumbling, Facebook. Eric and I sat down in a pair of armchairs below a painting of John Gabbert Bowman, the university’s ninth president.

“Well, John, what do you think? Do you approve?” I thought out loud. He said nothing. Eric stopped sketching and noted, “Look, he died before we got on the Moon.” 1877-1962. So he had.

We stopped at Panchero’s on the way home for chips and queso, perhaps roused to hunger by the orgy of consumption we had just witnessed. In the spirit of the night we got Jimmy John’s, too, and on the walk home Eric clinked his wrap against my sandwich, a toast to a night wasted with the masters of wasting time.

“We did it, man.” Had we? What had we done? What had anyone done that night? A group of concertgoers was loitering in a parking lot, and as we passed, a car drove by with its windows down. Someone in the car yelled, “Nice skinny jeans … weirdos.”

Something, I guess.

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