Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Just out for a stroll, officers.

A friend of mine emailed me this story. It seemed questy, and I wanted to share it with the my like-minded readers. My friend has a nephew who has recently left the county. I thought since he is now out of the reach of the applicable authorities, I could safely tell this story... Oh, If you open the title of this post in a new window, you get a map of the activities as described. I didn't embed it cause Vin whines is concerned about load times.
It's been a long time since I felt like getting into trouble on campus. To be honest, I didn't feel like it tonight. Sometimes I get to feeling like I'm too old to be climbing where I don't belong and like the magic of the night just doesn't do it for me anymore. That may be one of the reasons that I had children. Kind of cliche if it's true. Anyway, mine aren't quite old enough to be this kind of fun... yet. Fortunately, I have this nephew of mine. I'll call him 'David,' in order to protect his identity ;)

David had asked me on a couple of occasions if I would take him to the U of S campus and show him how to get into the maintenance tunnels that criss cross beneath the grounds. There had never seemed to be a good time. This evening I wasn't super keen, as I've mentioned, but since David was scheduled to be leaving the country for several months, I thought I had better give up the goods. I mean, if I had waited until he got back, he could very well have turned into a man when I wasn't looking and then how would all my boyish antics manage to impress him?

Off to campus I had to go. I decided to show him the one place that was sure to be accessible -- the air ventilation shaft behind the physics building. On the way we talked about several geographic features of the campus and a number of other places where doors lead into the tunnels -- if only they were ever left unlocked. We took our time and patiently scouted the area. It was late in the summer, so though there were few students around (at 11pm) there we a disconcerting number of workmen in various parts of the neighboring buildings.

We made our way to the shaft and lifted the aluminum cover off, using a flashlight to take a peek. David climbed in and tried to toggle the vent grating, but was a little uncomfortable to try and slide between the narrow slats without something to wedge them open. Coming back out, we replaced the cover and went in search of an appropriate size stick to manage the task. I was beginning to feel uneasy, having been at the location for 15 min, and suggested we go for a walk to check out some interesting man-hole covers that also might provide access. We had only walked 50 metres when we noticed a campus security car cruise into the area from whence we had just come. As we rounded a corner, we sprinted hastily to the end of the engineering building.

As fate would have it, it was just the location that a certain group of errant questers had passed long ago, moments before they were apprehended by campus security. I related to David the ancient tale of our exploits on campus that fateful night in 1991 and how we had been flanked on 3 sides by the cops. In the end they hadn't actually seen any of the childish fun that we were in fact guilty of and merely suggested we leave. I felt a little empty relating the story, as we hadn't managed to achieve any mischief yet and already I was on the run from the mere shadows of authority. After all, no one had pursued us. It was probably just a regular patrol, passing by on it's rounds. At the moment I felt much more of a coward than hero.

I tried to keep up a brave front by doing a little climbing on some parts of the agriculture building, watching over my shoulder for patrol cars all the while. After a dozen minutes passed with little activity, my curiosity began to take over and we made our way back to the scene of our attempted crime. All seemed quite. The car had gone. I still had a bad feeling about the tunnels, though, and I suggested that we check out this great ladder that leads up onto the roof of Voyager Hall, the student residence. I'm sure David was disappointed at my show of discretion, but he was definitely up for a good climb.

Up we went. One long ladder (up about 3 stories) and two shorter ones we went, "swift as weasels in the dark and with hardly any more noise than bats." I immediately felt better. It is a great view from up there. Private, yet centrally located, it feels like you have a secret and intimate connection with the university and it's denizens. As we looked around I saw the flash of a meteor burning up. Then I realized that we were a mere 4 hours from the peak viewing time for this year's Perseids (picture courtesy We watched for a while without much luck, as the moon was near full, but it felt like a treat none-the-less. We messed around for awhile, looking for other places to get up or down and then decided to call it a night.

Just as we were walking past the Arts building, two young students came flying out of the side doors and one of them (a young lady) tumbled and rolled out onto Campus Drive. Campus cops converged on them from two directions. One of them yelled something about "get the FUCK off the grass" (I think it was "grounds" but David insists). They bolted not ten feet from where we were watching wide-eyed, and then disappeared into the evening. As we continued, we saw a 3rd cop up on a balcony. He was watching from above and calling to the ground units on his radio. I decided not to show David that one last wall that I wanted to climb.

As we left campus, we saw the young questers, apprehended and awaiting... I'm not sure what. A stern lecture perhaps, or a 'real' police presence. We passed by and were approached by two of them. I asked what all the commotion was about, but they were unresponsive to my question. The officers asked us if we were friends with "these two" and if we had been up on the roof with them. I answered, truthfully, that we had not. They bade us have a good evening, not realizing that they had just made it for us :)