Editor’s note: Campus News Writer Andy Verderosa investigated the culture of the infamous 24-hour study room in Peter J. Shields Library. He spent 12 hours taking note of what he saw unfold.
It’s exactly 6 p.m. and I have taken a seat at the far end of the 24-hour study room. I sit nearest to the window and sneak glimpses of my peers who I jealously assume are walking home. The seating is scattered so I make use of an open chair and prop up my legs as they become restless.
Five minutes later the sun is shining directly in my eyes and I’m forced to relinquish my window seat in an attempt to see my computer screen. About four rows away two people are having a conversation that I can hear every word of. Apparently, their professor is a dick.
Behind me a girl is eating a bagel, and it hits me that I’m going to need to eat dinner here. I fear that my stomach growls may echo just as loud as the conversations going on around me.
Before I came I caught up to interview Eugene Frid, a senior sociology major who is a “proud” frequenter of the 24-hour room and once spent 36 hours straight in it.
“I’ve made some real friends here,” Frid said. “You go enough, you see the same people. You sit by each other and take some cigarette breaks together. You share food together. It’s a fraternity. One person will bring a bag full of chips and someone else will bring some fruit, and its some good bonding.”
It’s of course not all fun and games, Frid clarified.
“It’s depressing because you look around at four in the morning and you see 20 to 30 people in there and everyone looks horrible like they want to go home,” he said. “It feels like a jail because you know there is an outside because of the windows but you know you just can’t leave.”
Back in the 24-hour room. It’s now 8 p.m. I won’t lie, I went and got food and an Americano – double shot. The vibe in here seems different. The sun has lowered and the room is slowly weaning off natural light and being replaced by the infamous florescent lighting that seems designed to keep your eyes up and your mood down.
Things are getting serious in here now. This isn’t your six o’clock crowd, staring leisurely out the window waiting to catch the later Yolobus. Students beginning to sit down now are setting up temporary workplaces. This is going to be their home for the next couple of hours and spreading out is key.
It’s 11 p.m. and I’m done with my book. There is a friendly buzz in here, as every seat seems to be occupied. The sense that we are all in this together has taken hold. Facebook procrastination seems to have died out as actual concentration sets in. Still, the white noise of conversation is a pleasant-work atmosphere. And for good reason. It’s only 11 p.m. No need to worry yet. We’re doing fine. A guy behind me just got up and stretched; I would say this is a tad premature. Eleven o’clock is definitely not the 7th inning.
It’s 12 a.m. and the 24-hour room could double as a luncheon. There is food spread out everywhere and it’s currently the loudest it’s been. People are standing up chatting it up as if they are waiting in line at the CoHo. The traffic increase is more than obvious as the students previously in the library have been kicked out by the security guard and are forced to retreat to the only place left for procrastinators and perfectionists alike. People are leaving too: It seems as if midnight is when many students’ bikes turn back to pumpkins There is jealousy and a sense of betrayal in the eyes of the people around me as they stare sharply at the people packing up to leave.
It’s two in the morning and I think it’s safe to say that if you’re not leaving now, you’re staying for the long haul. A good number of people are leaving, saying bye to friends and wishing them luck. Others are convincing neighbors to put down their work until tomorrow morning. My table has turned into a pseudo dorm room. The girls to my left have piles of fast food trash, the girl to my right is watching the season finale of “Gossip Girl” and the one in front of me is sleeping. I try to think of a way to make my area more home-like but it would be inappropriate to walk around naked – although I heard a story from a reliable source about someone streaking through here two years ago.
It’s 3 a.m. and I’m talking to my neighbor about our current state of glum. Angela Ng, a junior community and regional development major, says that she comes here every time she has a paper or midterm.
“I don’t go to the library because I like the plugs,” she says. “And the lighting here keeps you awake.”
I glance over at the girl sitting literally a chair away from me who has been passed out on top of her laptop for about an hour, but I decide not to say anything.
“They say you can’t have food in here but everyone does it,” Ng says, gesturing toward the three Wendy’s bags that lay beside her laptop. “I really wish they had a microwave or a vending machine. That thing would make a lot of money.”
It’s 4 a.m. and I’m starting to notice that not many people are eating, but the ones who are seem to have chosen the loudest of foods. It has really cleared out at this point and my feet are back on top of another chair.
I’m definitely starting to feel woozy and my eyes are stinging from staring at my LCD computer screen. Mostly everyone around me has headphones in and I consider blasting something either loud or annoying to keep me awake. Maybe both.
I think it’s finally time for my stretch and bathroom break. Ng was right; we need a vending machine in here.
Frid also gave me a list of simple etiquette rules to follow in the 24-hour room.
“First of all make sure your headphones aren’t too loud,” he said. “Sometimes you can hear someone’s headphones blasting and it’s a huge elephant in the room because everyone is just staring at that person.”
Remembering this, I turn down my Owl City.
“Also don’t bring in full meals,” he said. “Sometimes people come in with full combo meals from Burger King and it stinks up the whole room in seconds. Everyone is obviously starving and when you smell fast food you can’t concentrate on anything but eating.”
Thankfully Ng had already eaten her Wendy’s before I regain my hunger and I go back to my work trying to ignore my growling stomach.
It’s 5 a.m. and I’m starting to doubt whether these sentences even make sense anymore. I feel like it’s been dark forever now. The blackness that comes from windows appears to just be another part of the wall.
Finally it’s 6 a.m. and I’ve been in here for 12 hours.
The sun has come back up slowly and the black panels have turned back to windows. Looking out, there is dew on the grass of the quad and maintenance and supply trucks are driving to deliver food to the CoHo.
In a second I will pack up my things and put an end to this academic journey. All in all, I think I accomplished a good amount and although I forgot how to type somewhere around 5:30 a.m., rereading my paper, I’m surprisingly happy with it.
I say goodbye to my neighbors – the band of brothers I have fought next to all night. I walk through the electronic door which opens for me – I guess it assumes that I no longer have the strength to open doors myself which is probably true. Walking home I pass students biking and walking who knows where. I wonder if they think I’m one of them – a morning person who wakes up with the sun to take on the day.
But they would be wrong. I’m a nocturnal worker now – a college student who braved the 24-hour room all night on nothing but an Americano and a drive to succeed.
I call my mom and tell her that I am just about to get in bed and she scolds me for being irresponsible, and in a way she’s right, but I’m still proud.
I remember what Frid told me about 13 hours prior.
“Of course it’s bad for you, and it’s definitely not recommended. But when it comes down to it and you sit there all night and get something done, it’s something you want to brag about.”
ANDY VERDEROSA can be reached at email@example.com.