Orientation Week: A story


Amber’s dad pulled up to Willison Hall at around 10 a.m. on Labour Day after finally navigating through the droves of cars cramping WLU’s dismal network of parking lots. She jumped when seven 20-something’s all dressed in purple T-shirts and face paint opened the doors to greet her, asked her name and then carried away her belongings before she could even realize what was going on.

Like every other student living in residence that year, the smiling faces of colourfully clad ice breakers was Amber’s first impression of university life.

Her parents left her at 1 p.m. in her residence room, where she adorned the walls with photographs until 3, when her floor met with the don for their first meeting. In floor 2A’s lounge, she sat on the stiff and worn furniture and looked around at a circle of 18 other excited and intimidated faces, sure that these people would become her new best friends for life.

After the meeting, Amber and the girls from Willison 2A met with their “brother floor” from Little House – the two floors would be spending the week together as one O Week group with four ice breakers.

The group was brought to wait in the field outside the seminary where they joined the rest of the Red Marauders – one of the teams for this year’s O Week theme: “Seize the Day,” a slight variation on the same vaguely inspirational message used every year.

While waiting for dinner, the head breakers stood on a bizarre wooden platform painted red and lead the team in cheering. Amber’s voice was hoarse after about 30 minutes of screaming, and she decided that she’d be very upset if the red team doesn’t win O-Week.

After 40 minutes of waiting, Steve was relieved to finally pluck a burger from the massive buffet trays outside the dining hall and sit down to eat.

On day two of O-Week, the food wasn’t bothering him so much as the waiting around and the cheering. He was amazed that all of these students were getting so passionately involved in their colour-coded teams, having only joined them yesterday.

After eating, Steve and the rest of the group were hoarded into the Athletic Complex where they sat crammed together on hard bleachers. When every team had arrived, they cheered fervently for a few minutes while waiting for the talent show event to begin.

It didn’t take long for Steve to decide that he was too cool for this. After hearing the fourth amateur beat-boxer of the night, Steve, instead of listening, decided to count the number of people that passed out from dehydration inside the sweltering gymnasium.

Six was the final count. As he watched the Emergency Response Team members help people out of the gym, he pitied them for having to wear bright red ski jackets.

Back at Little House residence, he was finally able to bring out the mickey of Bacardi he had snuck in from home, threw on some Jay-Z and got drunk with some of his floormates.

Three days into O-week, Jeannie was beginning to realize that not everyone at university is a genius like she had expected.

She was wearing her one-piece on the bus to Bingeman’s, which she had heard was a water park, mini putt and campground. In the seats behind her, Amber and the other popular girls on her floor had already formed a clique and were singing Oasis songs with the ice breakers.

She envied them, and for a minute was tempted to join in with them, but decided against it. People with 96 per cent averages in high school don’t sing stupid songs, she told herself.

At Bingeman’s, Jeannie quickly gave up on going down the waterslides when she saw what must have been an hour-long line up.

Disappointed, she wandered all by herself over to the mini-putt area, upset that she had yet to meet any friends at university.

As she walked, she heard a high-strung voice yell, “No, time and space are relative!” in the distance. She turned around to see a tall, lanky guy with thick-rimmed glasses exasperatedly try to explain Einstein’s theory of relativity to his friend.

“Finally!” Jeannie thought to herself, and ran over to make an introduction.

Suresh was enjoying his first time being an ice breaker. He liked all the energy and got along well with the first-years in his group.

Still, he felt guilty every time he had to wake up floor 1B in Little House at 7:00 a.m. every morning, knowing they’d be tired and hung over. But, guilty and tired as he was, at seven on the dot he ran up and down the hall banging on doors and blowing his fox40 whistle with enthusiasm.

One by one, the first-year guys emerged from their room like zombies and followed the breakers to breakfast while Suresh stayed to pick up the stragglers. Finally only one door had remained closed. The sign on the door read “Isaak Wallace.” Suresh recognized the name, but couldn’t put a face to it; the guy hadn’t come out to any events all week.

Suresh knocked hard on his door. No answer. He began knocking again. Almost immediately a deep voice hollered at him. “Fuck off!”

“Oh, so you are up then. Just come out and talk to me for one second.” After a moment, the door finally swung open. Isaak was at least six-foot-four and muscular, standing in the doorframe in boxers and a tank top.

“Listen,” he said. “I came here to play hockey, not to do stupid cheers and wash cars. Just leave me alone.”

“Aww, c’mon man,” Suresh pleaded. “Today is Shinerama. It’s the best part of O Week, and it’s for a great cause. You should really come and get to know the guys on your floor better.”

The stern-faced student was not swayed. “I know the guys on my floor just fine. I don’t need to come out to a bunch of lame events to do that.”

Suresh sighed. He looked to both sides to ensure that there was nobody else in the hall. “Look, I know,” Suresh confessed. “O-Week is ridiculous. Most people find all the spirit and the cheering annoying. It’s not for everyone. But man, I’m a third-year and I still know the people that I met on Shine Day in my first year.

“So what if the events have nothing to do with school – they’re designed for you to just go out and meet people. And if it’s not your cup of tea, I can guarantee you that there’s a ton of other first-year students who hate O-Week just as much as you. Besides, it’s not like there’s anything better to do. Why don’t you just come for today?”

“Fine,” Isaak replied. “Let me get changed.”

Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.