Monday, March 21, 2022

Bray Days: Water Wars

The actual “parties” in the dorm were sedate enough to stay under the R.A.’s official radar, and keep Ed and his crew from shutting them down. However, there was something, non-party or alcohol related, about Bray Hall that inspired high damage bills.
The year before we arrived at Bray, stories cited the residents deciding they didn’t like the half wall between the kitchen and TV viewing sections of the first floor lounge...
and removed it.
The year after we left Bray, the amazing technological advancement of computer terminals was added to the lounge.
Naturally, someone threw a pizza at the ceiling over them, where it stuck and dripped cheese into their innards.
Our year had some special considerations, and that’s not counting fluke occurrences like the insanely overthrown baseball from a game of catch attaining the perfect angle to break through both of the upper and lower open windows on Jesse's side.  This finally ended our debate on whether or not to sleep with the windows open. He liked it, I maintained it made me stuffy. He pointed out I slept in the cabins  Up the Lake, which was basically outside.  My rebuttal that Up the Lake was magic did not carry much weight.

Aside- None of the Bray years came anywhere near the RPI dorm damage bill record, which was the reason they spaced the football players out all across campus. At a point in the past, since it was directly across the street from both the ’87 Gym and the football field, some genius decided to put the entire football team in the E-Dorms. The team decided to remove every single door in the dorm and pile them up outside. The school then decided never to co-locate all of them again.

Our year, while we didn’t pile up doors, did pile up a healthy bill. Part of it, no doubt, came from the chemical engineers in training discovering what was needed to spray into the bill slot of the lounge vending machine to get it to spit out all of the contents and all of the money inside it. That unit was quickly replaced with one that had no bill slot. I’m not sure if it was the chemical engineers or another group who solved this conundrum by passing a chair through its front glass. Whoever it was, we didn’t have a vending machine for the rest of the year.
There was also the ritual pulling of the fire alarm at Three AM. One time, I used the moment to move my car to a better space, and almost backed into one of the police cars entering our lot in response to the alarm. I dodged a damage bill of a WHOLE different kind that night. The alarms were deeply problematic on cold weekday nights, but on weekends, it was worse. Mixed in with the crowd of shivering residents were equally cold, yet somehow incredibly steamed, young women wrapped in blankets and glaring at their menfolk. Finally, multiple hand made, notebook paper posters combining reward offers with detailed threats of violence were put up by many guys living there and the ritual ended.
The rest of the damage came from two sources. One initiated with our dorm’s version of “T.A.G. The Assassination Game.” Yes, this was a real thing in the fossil era; an authority sanctioned, fun time activity that simulated contract hits. There was a movie about it in 1982 with Linda Hamilton from Terminator and Robert Carradine from Revenge of the Nerds. 
I am not making this up.
Whoever signed up got a miniscule water pistol (from a dollar store multi-pack, although in fossil times it was probably a "Five and Ten" store) and a slip of paper with whom their “target” was. The game was banned during actual classes and traveling to or from them. In a vain attempt to prevent chaotic situations, hits had to be made in secret. That is, there could be no witnesses. However, you were allowed to defend yourself and squirt someone coming after you. If you made a successful “hit,” you took that person’s target and the game continued until there was a single player left- the winner.
I made one attempt. I had noted my target on his way to the floor rest room alone. I entered behind him, slid the tiny water gun out of my sleeve, pulled the trigger…
And the cap popped off soaking my hand while he turned around, pulled his pistol (holding his thumb on the plug) and shot me.
These ineffective weapons led most of the floor to purchase upgrades. There were electric versions, pump action, and all manner of water blasting devices. Long after T.A.G. ended, there were continual, and constantly escalating, water fights in our dorm.
Alex was an unusual, intense and quiet individual who shared the floor with us. He was known for wandering into people’s rooms while they were reading or studying and looking around without actually acknowledging the resident. He’d stare silently at books on the shelf for ages, occasionally taking one down to flip through it, but never speaking.
After weeks of this behavior, I finally had to tell him he wasn’t welcome to do it anymore, because it was insanely creepy. I was not the first nor was I the last to tell him this. We did have actual conversations after that revelation.
People had occasionally seen him practicing martial arts katas in the lounge, but it wasn’t something that led to follow up discussions given his silent nature. The word “wiry” (say it with the accent) comes to mind.
Big Steve was one of the less patient guys with Alex’s room visits and nailed him when one of the never-ending water fights had upgraded to the use of Tupperware as small buckets. I remember a similar one reaching a point where, after I was soaked, I took Jesse’s plastic trash can, filled it in the upstairs bathroom shower, and came down the other set of stairs to get flume level saturation revenge on someone. (That was probably Big Steve too.)  Alex, up to that point, was not participating in the day’s conflict, but after getting hit by Steve, he ran into our room and asked if we had an empty two-liter bottle. We did and he took it.
Wondering how this was going to help, we watched him go through the long and tedious process of filling it at the bathroom sink. Our recommendations of who had good water guns (and available Tupperware) when he first asked were ignored. We figured the best he’d get out of the bottle would be an aggressive sprinkle.
His former assailant returned to the hall when Alex was lurking around with his bottle. Alex advanced toward Steve at haste, with the bottom of the bottle pressed against his chest. Steve looked ready to hit Alex with a second container full…
Then Alex put one palm in either side of the full bottle and in an incredible show of strength 
 mashed it flat instantaneously.
The entire two liters shot out all over Steve in a single, powerful, soaking blast.
Steve was too stunned to retaliate, and had to admit that was an excellent hit.
Various others reacted when stress boiled over to the regular danger of getting soaked on the way anywhere.
In a rare moment (yet tame compared to later events) Jesse snapped one night and was in the middle of the hall with two borrowed battery-powered water Uzis and a purple cowboy hat with a big orange feather in it. (We were jugglers, this wasn't the oddest piece of clothing in the room.) He was screaming at any and all residents: varieties of, “Do you want some!”
The results of these frequent battles was an eternal state of squishiness for the hall carpet, and a well established moss garden at the end of the hall.
The water fights blended in as a sub-set of an overall practical joke war that raged throughout freshman year, ramping the damage bill up further.

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