Why do we go to school in icy hell? (Ben Bass column)

When I sat down to write this column, I had many noble ideas. First, I thought I would continue my ongoing rant against campus authorities by describing the hypocrisies of student judicial boards. Then I realized that was boring as hell. So I thought I might try to be conscientious and talk about the tsunami or African genocide or the upcoming inauguration, but frankly, what could I add to those discussions other than to say, “I, too, think these things are ghastly, and what’s more, I have a column in The Daily!”

Finally, I thought about writing 550 words about why Frankie Goes to Hollywood doesn’t belong in the all-time synth band pantheon with Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and New Order. However, before I drop that one, you all need to be introduced to the basics of synth band ranking, a topic that will have to wait until the Duran Duran comeback tour comes to Chicago in late February.

So, like anybody in an awkward situation with nothing to say, I decided to talk about the weather. This past weekend was among the worst in my five years here. From Thursday night to Tuesday evening, the temperature never broke 20 degrees and dipped below 5 degrees every night. Just to give you an idea of where that puts us, Moscow saw highs in the mid-30’s and lows in the mid-20’s. Reykjavik, Iceland, saw a high of 41 degrees. This in a country where the sun hasn’t shone for three months and is named after ice.

Even Base Esperanza, on Hope Bay in Antarctica, broke 40 degrees this past weekend. “Oh,” you’re probably saying, “but it’s summer there.” Oh really? You know what else? It’s colder here than in fucking Antarctica.

The cold is the elephant in the corner of the entire Winter Quarter. At first we complain, and it’s a big joke. Then it gets so bad everyone decides not to talk or think about it anymore, but quietly it goes on, undermining our will to live. In bewildered silence we wonder why we don’t go to the University of Hawaii. We pretend we’re thinking about all sorts of great things, but mostly we just want to get home and make sweet love to the space heater. Slowly, however, we adjust, sublimate and go on with life.

Then a weekend like this comes along, and the weather shifts from unpleasant to unbearable. For many of us, who live in shoddy apartments or Greek houses or badly maintained dorms, there is no escape. Even the tiniest crack in a window can turn your bedroom into a meat locker. Pipes burst, hot showers turn cold, ice forms on the inside of your car windows, icicles grow on the bathroom ceiling.

It is in these times that we ask ourselves that eternal question: Why, O mighty Mithras, Slayer of the Bull, did you ever allow us pitifully ignorant humans to settle this forsaken part of the globe? Some parts of the earth, like the lifeless steppes of Siberia, the freezing deserts of Patagonia or the arid center of the Sahara, are just not meant for human habitation. For 10 weeks every year, we live in one of those places.