To the Editor: Oberlin students didn't come to college to be treated like Kindergarteners. Perhaps you've heard this story before. Today I walked up to the circulation desk in Mudd carrying one unopened, vacuum-sealed container of iced tea, a packaged beverage available for sale in the library itself, consisting primarily of water and fructose. For daring to present myself in this fashion I was assessed a five dollar fine. I was told that though there was no grievance procedure, I could talk to the Director, though he was certain to back the fine "100%."
In response to my question, I was told that had this sealed container been in my backpack rather than in my hand, everything would have been all right. Subsequently I conducted a test of the beverage's container, in which I both shook the bottle vigorously while holding it upside-down and deliberately threw it at the ground. I am convinced that there was a greater danger of me, in a sudden wave of uncontrollable nausea, discharging a column of gastrointestinal fluid (a far more volatile substance) over the circulation desk, than of me having an accident that would unleash the destructive powers of this iced tea.
Though I have always faithfully adhered to the prohibition on food and drink in the library, it had never occurred to me that it could extend to sealed packages. As I indicate above, my own body fluids are far less effectively sealed and sequestered than any product packaged in our high-tech world of aesthetically sterile FDA standards.
Nevertheless, I don't blame the employee who assessed this fine. I do suppose she was just doing her job. What I fear is that though the Director's secretary was kind enough to verify that my drink was sealed and secure, the Powers that Be won't be susceptible to reason. We'll see what they have to say. It has always been my strange Utopian notion that in institutions of higher learning we seek to condemn arbitrary or senseless exercises of punitive power. If so, we may yet wriggle loose of the elastic nerf lariat of controversy and swim our tadpoly way into the light of redemption, as seen through the refractive properties of a beverage consisting primarily of water and fructose.
Copyright © 1997, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 25, May 23, 1997
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