The Eye

The Hours Before 8:40

Josh—The Eye Contributor

It’s 2:40 a.m. You’re making your way back from The Heights, because that’s the bar people seem to go to during NSOP. As an orientation leader, you haven’t met your new students yet, but you recognize one of them in line at Koronet from your incessant Facebook stalking. As you realize you don’t recall your first Koronet experience, you remember that you’re on balloon crew duty tomorrow and try to conjure up something to tell your crew chief to get out of it. Then, you remember Columbia’s Associate Director of Student Engagement and NSOP’s legendary director, Aaron Gomes, always works balloon crew; you experience a few moments of sheer joy and set an alarm—or should it be a timer?—for 4:40 a.m.

It’s 4:40 a.m. You turn your alarm off and immediately fall back to sleep. Good thing you set that second alarm for 4:45. As you make your way to Low Plaza from 109th and Riverside, you get a cup of coffee from your crew chief, a smile from Gomes, and get excited to start tying balloons around the lower quad because, as early it is, there’s something remarkable about being up and about on campus with a few friends before the morning sun breaks over the eastern cliffs of Morningside Heights. (Huh, that’s why it’s called Morningside Heights.)

It’s 6:40 a.m. You and about 20 other OLs have lit up campus with hundreds of balloons. A few families start to pull through the gates and their excitement reminds you why you applied to be an OL and how happy you are you got the chance to do it. Your friends are just now heading out to start their shifts helping to move the new students into their residence halls. You make your way back to your bed, and as you drift back to sleep, the clock strikes 8:40 a.m.


Parth—Features Deputy Editor

You find your kind of people all around campus at 7:00 a.m.

Early risers find others who, like them, are healthy, wealthy, and wise, who, like them, have also gotten a taste of that delicious, well-cooked early worm. (Say what you will about other worms, early worms have an incomparable, delicate texture that make them far superior.)

These early risers spot each other coming out of the gym or just finishing a run, their fitness routines enhancing their toned, chiseled bodies. Those doing homework at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday see others doing that same piece of work, even though it’s due two weeks from now, because, let’s face it, they’re all itching to get started on it.

And then, there are people like me, who at 7:00 a.m. can only see the faces of the others also finishing their second all-nighter in a row. Our work, finally, finally, done (sorry, future me and future GPA), we carry our tired, laggy bodies slowly through the cold air to Ferris breakfast. We’ve cheated the system. If Ferris breakfast is the early worm, we’ve just managed to wait up all night for it.

Here, I’ve had many breakfasts with people who wake up early. The toned elite. I realize in the short conversations I have with early risers that we, two different species, are very similar. We both eat. We both breathe. Humanity is one. At Ferris breakfast, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the end of your day or the start. The early worm brings us together.


Kara—Features Deputy Editor

A friend of mine, the writer and director of a short film I produced last semester, once joked that filming a movie on a low budget is, in her words, “super spy.” I didn’t quite understand what she meant at first, but as soon as we started the process of filming her movie, it became clear: Without filming permits, administrative clout, and proper equipment, creating a movie takes cunning, sneakiness, and ingenuity that would do James Bond proud.

So when my alarm clock sounded off on the first day of filming, a Saturday at 6:00 a.m., the first thing I thought was, “Wow. I am James Bond.” To be honest, I thought of a few other unprintable, less exultant words first, but after a compulsory coffee run, I metamorphosed into my spy alter ego. Cast and crew alike slipped into academic buildings, hustled to film in the lobby of the Diana Center before we got kicked out, sneaked into empty bathrooms to film a (rated G) scene. Very spy, indeed.

But as illicit as what we were doing felt (in that slightly ridiculous, victimless, and completely undangerous but nonetheless mildly exhilarating sense of illicitness), I had a nagging sense that our actions were entirely unnecessary, that nobody was around to see us, that any measures we took to protect ourselves could be easily foiled if someone cared enough to thwart a $200 budget independent short film at 7 a.m. That morning, the lack of eyes on the street bestowed not only a certain invincibility but also an unsettling awareness of the fragility of our act.

At one point, we sign our actor into John Jay with costumes in tow, and have him change into a janitor outfit upstairs, taking our hall’s mop and cleaning cart as his own before we head downstairs to the hallway to film.

He and I are going back upstairs to return the cart when a resident slips through the elevator doors right before they shut. We’ve planned for this. It was, finally, the test we had been waiting for, our chance to fool someone. The janitor and I both stare forward, pretending not to know each other and hoping our elevator companion does not realize that janitors usually do not clean residence halls at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

This was the only encounter we had with somebody; the only moment someone came within an arm’s reach of blowing our cover. And it was completely anticlimactic.

The person in the elevator didn't think twice of it and got off at the fifth floor. But even though we were unaccompanied and in the clear, we kept staring forward, pretending not to know each other, waiting for the doors to open on floor seven.

Not to spoil the film—which you should watch—but it is about a janitor who tries out to be the main character of a reality show called the Loneliest Person In the World. At the end of the film, the janitor does not get the part—he does not get the chance to be the loneliest person in the world on national television. Yet he is so locked in this image of himself as a lonely man that, in the final scene, he turns down the only chance at friendship he gets.

That moment in the elevator, I can’t help but draw a comparison between that janitor and myself, filming this movie: Both of us locked in a meaningless charade, a series of choreographed movements to disguise ourselves from nobody. Who am I hiding from? The invisible people who watch us as we travel two stories from floor five to floor seven? The security camera?

Later that day as I watch the janitor act out his final scene, I understand what I realized in the elevator: When there are no eyes are upon you, all eyes are watching.


Tim—Associate Editor

Normally Bach says “Wachet auf!” (“Wake up!”) in the shower, and I listen. Today something is different. Vivaldi maybe? Whatever it is sounds like the Muzak that plays in still moments in elevators across the States.

Shaking my head, I turn the radio off, left only with the sound of falling water droplets instead of the “Morning Bach.”

An identity crisis floods into the room, charging straight towards me. Why don’t I like this music?  I don’t like listening to this music—does that make me a lesser musician? Why am I studying music then? Can anyone make a decent living from this? What can I? What do I? What if—why—how—what—ah!

Wow. That got very serious, very quickly. Laughing at myself, I quickly snatch the shampoo to divert my attention.

The next few quiet moments lend themselves to a new serenity. The trickling pitter patter-pitter… pitter patter-pitter… pitter patter-pitter sounds like a friend: consoling, warm, caring.

In this comforting moment, I am taken back to my own cherished musical memories: like playing that fateful first note in Eastman Theater’s Kodak Hall, the note that made me realize there is nothing else I can do—nothing else that I would ever want to do—besides music. Or putting all of my energy into a performance of Poulenc’s clarinet Sonata for the toughest judge in the state—the real-life incarnation of Anton Ego from Ratatouille—and being left with wet cheeks and my biggest, dimpliest, most joyful smile. Playing the final, emotionally charged, built-up-to (after-such-a-long-wait) chord of Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral. Hearing the New York Philharmonic perform the celestial Firebird. Going on the stuck-in-a-barrel falling down a waterfall-adventure-ride that is journeying through Mahler 2. Yearningly singing the second movement of a Weber Concerto after being… chorusing “do-re-mi” from the Sound of Music together with… music-nerding-out over Tchaik with… that time when… the piece that… the song which… that time!... that place!... that music!

Smiling, I turn off the water and start to hum Bach’s “Wachet auf.”

Why couldn’t the radio have played that today instead?


Isaiah—The Eye alumnus

As usual, I wake up to the blaring ringtone of my phone. I continually snooze the seven alarms I set the night before, each separated by two-minute intervals, causing me to finally get out of bed 15 minutes later than planned.

As always, I wake up simultaneously dehydrated and needing to pee, and I don’t have time to deal with both. I return from the bathroom, feeling both relieved and even more dehydrated. I tell myself I’ll get some water later, but I won’t. I try to take a quick shower. But true to form, my mind wanders under the narcotizing effect of the warm water, and it takes longer than anticipated.

I toss around the clothes that lay strewn across my floor, in search of deodorant. I lift up a crumpled sweatshirt and find two identical sticks. One of them is usable, while the other is musky from being applied to unshowered armpits on too many rushed mornings. The first that I grab and sniff is, invariably, the bad one, which I toss aside. I put on my shirt, pants, and shoes, and finally slip my light blue polyester gown over my head.

I expect to be scared or nervous on the morning of graduation, but I am stressed out and annoyed, just like any other morning. Maybe no matter what I do or where I go, mornings will always be shitty. I imagine the first morning of my first real job will be the same, and the morning of my wedding, and maybe even my second wedding. My hearse will probably get stuck in traffic on the morning of my funeral. There is a comforting sameness to it all.

Like any other day, I arrive a little late to Lerner Hall to line up for the procession. I manage to get ahold of some coffee while I wait in line. After we have taken our seats, about an hour into the speeches, the coffee has passed through my system like Drano.

I am dehydrated and need to pee once again. I decide to step out, in the middle of Bollinger’s speech, and set out in search of a bathroom and a fountain, even though, as always, I will only find one of them.

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