Opinion | If these walls could talk, they’d scream: a glimpse into life at Hillman during finals week

By Allison Dantinne, Staff Columnist

The students studying for finals in Hillman are fascinating creatures, plagued by insurmountable stress manifested as odd habits. They gather around power sources, lean back in their swivel chairs while staring up at the lines of fluorescent lights and occasionally fall asleep on the floor under the cursed tables — the ones without outlets. I spent a few hours recently on the ground floor of Hillman late at night, watching exhausted students frantically preparing for the dawning of finals week.

11 p.m.: Students now have to swipe in to the library. There’s a line in front of the security guard. Do all these students want to be here? No. No one wants to be here. Though the security guard continues to swipe, the line doesn’t seem to shorten.

11:04 p.m.: The pack of students who just cleared the security table plop beverages and hot food on a nearby table, even though the pizza with sunglasses warns that hot food will not be tolerated. Do the pack of students dare spit in the face of the pizza god? Do they dare mock the mildly threatening and factually accurate gospel of “hot food isn’t cool?” The McDonald’s bags make me believe that they do. There is no fear of god in this building.

11:10 p.m.: A student lunges for another student. The action could be construed as an attack on the mean, wild streets of Oakland, but in the library, it’s only an attempt to earn the other student’s attention. The other student flinches in shock at this touch from behind, but upon seeing the other student, eases and presents him with the well-documented bro-handshake-turned-gentle-hug. They release their embrace quickly and retreat to opposite sides of the ground floor.

11:11 p.m.: Make a wish. I wish to stop hearing the door to the stairwell open and close with its incessant and mocking click.

11:34 p.m.: The student across from me squints at their screen and then lifts his hands, as though conveying the idea of confusion and disbelief with two open palms in the air. I imagine that the student communicates this way instead of verbalizing, because this is a library and the social contract stipulates that noise should be minimized.

11:35 p.m.: The student across from me now claps, but only once, and quite softly. I assume the problem that caused the confusion has now been solved.

11:52 p.m.: I hear a single expletive in the distance.

Midnight: To cite or not to cite, that is the question posed here today by another student. The answer is both in the student’s heart and on her syllabus. All must be cited.

12:06 a.m.: A student microwaves a vegetable lasagna. While waiting for the lasagna to cook, the student does not reach for her phone, or look at her surroundings. The pursuit of food has made her numb to all that happens around her. All she sees is the lasagna, splattering in the microwave, bubbling, brewing underneath its cellophane cover.

12:11 a.m.: The microwave beeps. The student pulls out the lasagna, forgetting that it’s hot, and now appears distressed by just how hot a microwave can make a lasagna. The student tries again, tugging the lasagna out and onto the flattened box from which it came. Removing the cellophane, the student remembers she needs a fork and searches for one around her.

12:12 a.m.: Lasagna student taps the lever to the fork dispenser, only to find that her efforts produce no fork. Next, she tries the spoon dispenser, which is also barren. However, the knife dispenser seems to work. Glancing from the lasagna to the plastic knife in her hands, the student sighs and resigns herself to eating a vegetable lasagna with only a knife. Students seem to be resourceful under stress.

12:36 a.m.: A student enters the library alone. This student appears festive, yet comfortable, in his Christmas-themed pajama bottoms and oversized red felt top hat. I see that some students channel their stress into expressions of festivity during the holiday season.  

12:49 a.m.: I aim to understand how every student with a MacBook types with the same ferocity and prowess. It seems as though these students belong to the same clan and express this with their common language — fast, loud typing.

1:03 a.m.: One student passes by my desk holding a thermos of tea and an apple. I wonder what exactly they feel like they have to prove.

1:15 a.m.: The student in the red felt hat walks by again. I find my original judgment of this student to be false. The Christmas-themed pajama pants are not pajama pants after all, but rather part of a Christmas-themed suit. I now have more questions about this student.

1:22 a.m.: The board in front of the stairs now says that valuables should not be left unattended. The sign features a cartoon bandit holding a laptop in his arms with the caption, “This guy will take them.” I find this to be a convictionless statement, as many tables are festooned with laptops without owners, and I have yet to see this malicious character. The caption is nothing but an oddly phrased lie.

1:28 a.m.: A student walks up to the service desk in pursuit of a stapler. He attempts to staple his papers, only to find the stapler is not functioning properly. With the papers removed, the student attempts it again, stapling the air. His brow furrows, as he attempts to staple the air again. The student puts the stapler down in frustration, gathering his papers and placing them in the recycling bin, completely rejecting his original task.

1:30 a.m.: The student during finals week is a expression of humanity’s id, the human condition made manifest, existing in the same way a blow up in front of a car dealership does. Above all else, the students at Hillman are a glimpse into what life would look like if we all acted without fear of judgment. I gather my things and leave the library, convinced that this building has the same liminal energy as a playground at night. If these walls could talk, they’d scream.