First-Year Column: How To Get Away with Anything and Everything

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need an apple to fall on your head to have an epiphany. For example, recently at the library I had one of those ol’ realizations that comes around every once in a while.

The rookie period for first-years is drawing to a close.

Now some of you may greet the end of this phase with a deep sigh of contentment. Finally, you think to yourself, all that social awkwardness and eternal confusion will come to an end. But I’m here to present to you something quite wonderful about being a first-year: the perfect excuse.

This realization struck me quite suddenly when I went behind the library counter to collect some books I’d reserved only to be scolded fiercely by a librarian. Now, clearly I was in the wrong and had completely disregarded the social convention of waiting in line to be handed my books over the counter. 

The proper thing to do would have been to begin an immediate and profuse apology. But I firmly believe in not becoming a good person overnight, because, after all, that’s what the rest of life is for. And this is where my epiphany struck: Why take responsibility for your actions when you don’t have to? That, I thought to myself, is for after college.

So instead of cowering as I usually do when faced with the indomitable force of an angry English scholar, I turned to her with a surprised and injured air and said, “Oh, but I thought I could just take my books? I’m sorry, I’m a freshman, I didn’t know.”

Golden words, those ones. In a moment, frustration fell off her face, and with sudden benevolence she told me, “Aw, that’s alright. You didn’t know. Just remember next time!” I haven’t seen a more beautiful turnaround since I last watched Beauty and the Beast.

From this experience, I have learned a valuable lesson: While a first-year, exploit your “freshness” as much as possible. All those things that you always wanted to do, but couldn’t because of some silly rule, you now have a perfect excuse for if caught—you just didn’t know you couldn’t!

For example, say you want to break into the pool for a midnight skinny dip. Unfortunately, in the middle of having some prime Zen time with your band of fellow first-years, a pesky little alarm goes off. But before you scramble out of the pool to embark on an awkward naked chase through campus, remember the handy first-year excuse: deny knowledge of anything.

People don’t expect you to be smart; they expect you to be a first-year. How were you supposed to know that swimming around naked in the locked-up pool facility wasn’t allowed? You didn’t realize that the pool hours only went until five! You only just got to this school! Address the situation with enough befuddlement and Campus Safety won’t know how to deal with your overwhelming lack of knowledge. They’ll have no choice but to let you go, and then not only will you have had the great experience of skinny dipping in a pool at the Claremont Colleges (seriously, not to be beat), but you’ll also have talked your way out of a Campus Safety write-up. That’s two college bucket list items checked off, and all in your first year, too.

Now is the time to be loud in the library, throw wild dance parties until 3 a.m. on weeknights and set up a Slip ‘n Slide on the quad. This is the perfect time to bring your car to campus (“Oh no! Just upperclassmen? I had no idea!”) and to shoot people with Nerf guns in a drawn-out attempt at playing Humans vs. Zombies (“You’re saying it ended back in October? Really?”).

If you don’t get on it soon, the first-year excuse will wear off. This is the one advantage that we have over seniors, so make sure you really rub it in their faces, because heaven knows they’ve got the best rooms and class registration times.

The one trick to getting away with this is you have to look innocent.

Better yet, seem surprised that there even are such rules. This is best supplemented with a couple of questions that show you’re trying to clarify the situation, “What do you mean, I can’t text my friends while in class?” or “Wait, so let me get this right. You’re saying no one under the age of 21 is allowed to drink in this country? Like, no one at all?” Subtly, question every statement they make. This will help convince them that you really are an idiot and not worth any more of their time.

Thanksgiving this past week heralds the approaching end of the semester. The following weeks promise endless class presentations, frantically scribbled in-class essays and, oh right, finals. But I think that somewhere in there, we could all fit in time to practice our first-year excuse and laugh once more in the face of responsibility.

So take an evening or two to construct a bonfire to rival those of Harvey Mudd College, because after all, how could you have known that there are more strict fire codes on your campus than on theirs? Or even just relish wearing that lanyard around your neck for another couple of weeks because, seriously, next semester that will not fly.

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