SURVEY RESULTS

Oh, the Dumb Things We Did

It was a relief to discover we were not the only dimwits in our class; in fact a recurring complaint was “how can I choose just one dumb thing?” In fact, we now think some of you are holding out on us, not sharing your most dubious achievements out of an instinct against self-incrimination, or fairness to unfortunate victims. Still, you sent quite a trove of wince-worthy confessions. We present them here roughly in order from simple regrets to clueless to terrifying. If you would know the full meaning of “sophomoric,” read on.
—Anne Riney & Stu Rohrer

Question 3: What’s the dumbest thing you did at Yale? Tell us that story.

Sunshine superman

I did so many dumb things at Yale that it’s hard to pick a primary act out of the morass of juvenile stupidity to which I often succumbed. But thinking back on it, I think my continuous error can be found in my constant efforts to try and be someone other than myself. The insecure preppie who wasn’t sure he belonged at Yale tried on many guises: bell bottomed Frye boots wearer, disdainer of all things natural to my background, bearded idiot or the guy my then significant other described as the person who would never belong at Harvard Law School By the way, she wasn’t wrong. About half way through Yale, I made a decision to just be Alec. Out went the boots and bell bottoms. On went the Levi’s, Wallabies and Shaggy Dog sweaters over a popped collar. I was still stupid enough to go to law school (Columbia not Harvard) which I hated. But I met the person who would help me start my family now numbering 24. But know this: I never had a bad time on sunshine.
Alec Haverstick [SY]

Cheeks still burning

It might be easier to remember the smartest thing I ever did, since there were so few of those. As for dumb, I recall two stupid, dumb acts with searing disbelief and unending pain. First, as some sort of poobah in Calhoun College Council, I told a classmate he could not play guitar at one of our events. I had never heard him play guitar. What kind of moron was I? I later heard him play. He was as good a blues guitarist as I have ever heard. I hope it taught me to engage everyone with open eyes and ears. Second, I was dismissive of a very good friend who had revealed something to me I apparently could not bear to hear, no less understand. I blurted out a reply that revealed every prejudice, malformed thought, jealousy, and inability to empathize that were lodged in my sophomoric, self centered being.
—Anonymous

No-network effect

I’ll hold to a distinction between the dumb and the embarrassing, because the embarrassing would be just too much to face. Academically, the dumbest thing I did was not to better prepare myself for a PhD program by maturing in ways my discipline favored. At the time the discipline favored work in directions I have never found worthwhile, But I could have found a way around this. Of course, disciplinary methodology often brings intellectual conformism. And so I have a non-standard approach based on what my life was for not having finished a PhD. But not figuring out how I could do that and so getting into the right program with the right attitude and skills has been haunting. Personally, my dumbest mistake as an undergraduate was not cultivating the friendships of a lot of people, fellow students as well as some faculty, whom I sensed were wonderful people but whom I was too distracted, proud, or stupid to get to know. There were sterling classmates better worth my attention during the precious time of those four years.
Bennett Gilbert [SY]

In my excitement I forgot that I had my milkshake in hand.

Oh, the places you won’t go!

I played it too safe! Sticking to my comfort zones and not branching out (much). Too self-conscious and insecure to look for and find mentors or even to sit down with a professor eating in Branford College dining hall. I will always regret not getting one of Roland Bainton’s marker-on-napkin caricatures that he often drew of his meal companions. In my defense, I did get to know one administrator who ate there–one of the few mature women in evidence. When she set up a dinner to meet Carolyn Heilbrun of Columbia U (and author of the Amanda Cross mystery series), I was the only student to show up! And got a very unique take on how homo/heterosexual might be redefined! She was ahead of our time.
Ann Larson [BR]

Wasted on the young

I can’t begin to catalog my stupidities and regrets — how much academic and other opportunity was largely wasted on my very young, clueless self. I had no functional understanding of how to navigate the institution, how to take advantage of the teaching excellence (and mentoring) available. And that was particularly stupid for a financial aid admission (we identified back then as “Bursary” students). One early and consistent error was not seeking out appropriate guidance in selecting courses and building a meaningful academic journey, etc., thinking instead that success meant scheduling as many paid work hours as possible. If only it were possible to go back and start again as a 70-year old — and to continue studying with and learning from so many impressive fellow students as well as faculty.—Anonymous

Double take

I never met Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan. Same name. Should have just gone in and said hi. Since then, have read his (non-academic, lay press) books and found him to be a phenomenal intellect and writer. Missed it big …
Peter Pelikan [BK]

Risque business

Perhaps the act I did at Yale wasn’t so much stupid as risqué. Call it stupid only if I had become famous and this was revealed about my past. Fortunately, I did not become famous, and all the evidence has been destroyed. I was the Sandwich Girl at the café on the top floor of the A & A Building for three years. It was a fun job since the view was fantastic, the work easy, and the clientele interesting. Bill Bailey frequented the shop for a coffee and donut. I made the sandwiches and then worked the register. Mary was the shop manager, and we became buddies. She always watched out for me, sort of a protective mother from what she felt were artistic wolves. One day a graduate artist came to the shop while I was working and asked if I sang in the Slavic Chorus. This was indeed my favorite extra-curricular at Yale and we had just given a concert in Dwight Chapel. We talked a bit and before I knew it, we had exchanged phone numbers. I could see Mary in the background giving me the disapproving eye. The artist, whom I will call Joe, and I became friends and then started dating. He had a big studio in the A & A Building before all the artists were moved to the new center up Chapel Street. Well, one day Joe asked if he could draw me, and I said sure. I think you know where this is going. Fortunately, I had the sense to just reveal myself from the waist up. The finished product of that first attempt was quite remarkable. The lines were powerfully drawn expressing a certain compelling energy. Joe did some more drawings but this first one was the best. Over time, Joe and I drifted apart and broke up. But to my surprise and chagrin, he recreated that first drawing, but this time as a HUGE painting about 7 feet x 5 feet. (That’s feet, not inches!) This was entered into the graduate artists’ show in the A & A Gallery. Jeez – so there I sat for a few months in all my half glory. I’m pretty sure the painting no longer exists – whew! And I was in possession of that first drawing but lost it over the years.
Cilla Leavitt [TC]

I didn’t want anyone to think I didn’t know what I was doing, so, just to be on the safe side, I filled the glass about two-thirds full of gin.

Shake it up, baby…

The Durfee Sweet Shop was a brand new addition to the Old Campus our Freshman year. I was eager to try a midday treat so went and ordered a chocolate milkshake to go. I stepped out on the street with my drink in hand . Then to my delight across the street was my freshman English TA that I had a crush on. This was my opportunity to say hello outside of class. Well just to make sure I looked particularly attractive I adjusted my fetching floppy hat. In my excitement I forgot that I had my milkshake in hand. I stood there and poured the entire thing over my head as he and all the other people emerging from the post office looked on. Let’s say I was mortified and kept a low profile in my small section the rest of the term.
Jane Hamersley McLaughlin [BK]

Color blind

When I entered Yale, I was quite ignorant of football, having no family members who were fans, and having attended an all-girls high school. Nevertheless, when invited, I attended various games. What to wear? Why, of course, the opposing team’s colors! I did not aspire to do this, but did it out of ignorance. I had not applied to these other colleges, nor had I investigated them, and did not know what their colors were. I wore light blue to the Columbia game. Then, when the Dartmouth game was being played, I wore dark green. Finally the Harvard game came up. I think by that time I knew Harvard was distinguished by crimson. However, I liked the crimson outfit I had in mind for this game, and not to spoil my creative record, I think I wore crimson anyway. I did not become a sports marketer for Yale, though I have always been happy to hear of a Yale football victory.
Sharon Vaino [SM]

Let’s get small

In the spring of 1971, I was singing with the Freshman Glee Club in Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, and I needed to have a costume to play the sea, so I borrowed a black wool turtleneck from Don Bivens for the performance. After the concert, I added it to my laundry and gave it a good wash in hot water along with my other clothes. As everyone knew, except 18-year-old me, this produced a toddler-sized turtleneck and two months of being so embarrassed that I avoided Don for as long as I could. On confessing, he was gracious about everything and accepted my apology. I did many other dumb things as a college student but I remember this one being really upsetting, probably because the concert itself was one of the best choir experiences I had over my four years of singing in every choir on campus, and led to my conducting many works by Britten in my career. And I just Googled “Yale Freshman Glee Club 1971” and the Yale Daily News announcing the concert on Page 4 came up first on the list!
Brian Gorelick [JE]

But thanks for asking!

Once at the Yale infirmary, a female doctor came into the waiting area to look for a patient. Noticing her very big belly, I brightly asked when her baby was due. With a withering look she informed me that she wasn’t pregnant.
–Singie Shepley-Gamble [BK]

Best laid plans

I went to a mixer at Vassar with my roommate. He met a girl and he had the car key. I had to walk/hitchhike home … to New Haven. Long night.
—Anonymous

To infinity and beyond …

Certainly this is a difficult question for me to answer… Does taking a German language class at 8:00am freshman year count? Or doing an all-nighter job in the Dunham PDP-10 lab to protect it from imagined rioting May-Day Yalies (I got some shut-eye stretched out on the lab tables) … Or perhaps, dressed in black turtleneck and black pants, descending into the steam tunnels (from a Berkeley basement entry) … in the dark of night … exploring nothing of interest … only to wind up at Sterling Library … and accidentally setting off a door alarm. Or, maybe returning early during January winter break (to do some work) … only to discover that Trumbull turns off the radiator heat while the college was presumably unoccupied … Shall I continue?
Thomas Corbi [TC]

Now it can be told

I let a 15-page paper in History 10b go unwritten until the night before it was due. I had done most of the reading, and a lot of the thinking, but none of the writing. Of course, before word processors, I had to just type it out and stayed up all night writing the paper without real editing (got an H- before the current super grade inflation). One of the guys across the hall stayed up with me, I guess ‘for fun’, and we became best friends for the next three years except for the extensive time he spent senior year with his secret society.
—Anonymous

The devil made me do it

Back when Grace Hopper was Calhoun, a magnificent elm tree graced the college courtyard. (In recent years, on visits to the college, I still wince at its absence. Dutch elm disease.) The tree gave life to the courtyard. A tire swing in constant motion. A shady bench that was always occupied. Bright autumn leaves. Very late one night, returning from who knows where, I found the courtyard deserted. A reckless impulse flashed in my sophomore brain. Slowly, methodically, I tossed a roll of toilet paper over the branches of the elm, again and again, until the tree was festooned with white streaks. Then I stumbled up my entryway to bed. When I emerged, sheepish, late the next morning, I was relieved to see that a steady rain was already melting away my handiwork.
Stu Rohrer [CC]

Maiden form

If clueless counts, and it was early in the time of co-education … I took Taekwondo with In-Soo Wong (I hope that I am not misremembering or misspelling the teacher’s name). It was a new offering at Yale. We stood in line. Each of us, in turn, stepped forward and presented the white cotton dobok (pants and top) to the teacher. He greeted the bearer and asked the name. He wrote the transliterated name in Korean characters on a lapel of the gi (the top) in black magic marker. This ritual was, essentially, a formal introduction of student to teacher. He instructed us that the dobok would “snap” with explosive energy if the student were doing the form correctly. We dressed out and began a rigorous exercise learning how to form a “cobra-hand” and strike with it. I was determined to keep up with the guys, striking as hard as I could, hoping to hear the gi snap. It was more a beginner’s whoosh, but not for lack of trying. At the end of the class, we stood facing the teacher before our bows, the teacher addressed one person, me. “Next time, wear a tee-shirt under the gi.” As a good feminist, I wasn’t wearing a bra.
Patricia Sheppard [DC]

We talked a bit and before I knew it, we had exchanged phone numbers. I could see Mary in the background giving me the disapproving eye.

Levitation not included

This isn’t MY dumbest thing, but it’s A dumbest thing! (And if someone else has already owned up to it, let them tell the story.) It was the first or second week of Freshman year. Some guy in Wright Hall had bought himself a big water bed (A boldly self assured move, or perhaps a bid for some coed company). This guy and his roommate had hooked up a hose from one of the outlets outside the dorm, and were using it to fill up the waterbed mattress. Outside! On the sidewalk! A small crowd had gathered to watch while these two pranced around congratulating themselves and enjoying the attention . But unlike most crowds this one was hushed. In awe. I too had stopped to watch, and heard one person whisper to another, “Don’t they know that thing is going to weigh a couple of tons when it’s full? How did they get into Yale??”
Carolyn Grillo [JE]

Do you, Mr Jones?

There were many dumb things I recall doing or being involved with throughout my days “Neath the Elms” at Yale; most too humiliating to mention here. But one particular moment in the Fall of my Sophomore year in 1971 comes to mind. Everyone in our class probably remembers and had some interactions with “Mr. Jones”, who walked the streets around the Old Campus engaging students and faculty and always asking for cash. He could be seen on most days trolling somewhere around the campus looking for coins or better from people. He was always courteous and had a broad smile, hearty laugh and something positive to say to folks stopping by or saying Hi to him. I have to say that seeing him work his trade on blustery Fall and Winter days as we were going to classes Freshman year brought some feelings of guilt at all the privileges and experiences we students had while attending one of the great and elite colleges in the world. In September of the following year, it so happened that the Broadway play, “Hair”, was coming to town to play at New Haven’s Shubert Theatre. Three friends and I decided to get tickets so the four of us could attend a Saturday matinee. Unfortunately, on the day of the big show one student was sick and had to bail out. We had no luck offering the ticket to anyone else we knew on such short notice so on our way to the show I saw Mr. Jones over by the Green and said to the others: “Wouldn’t it be cool if we invited Mr. Jones to come to the play with us?!” Everyone agreed that would be a marvelous and fun thing to do. When we asked Mr. Jones if he wanted to come to the play he was excited and said, “Man, that is so nice of you guys. I would really like to do that, but I first have an errand to run and don’t know if I can make it on time or not”. So we gave him the fourth ticket and told him to come as soon as he can. We got to our seats about 20 minutes ahead of the show. Time went by and no Mr. Jones, until finally about 3 minutes before curtain time, in walks a younger man sliding down our row and sitting right in the seat we had reserved for Mr. Jones. Bummer. As lights were dimming and the curtain was rising for the much anticipated play, the light bulb in my head was dimly glowing as I asked the question of this intruder, “Did Mr. Jones give you his ticket?” “No,” he answered. “I had to pay him $35 bucks for it”. Lesson learned …
Rob Westerman [SY]

Quack quack

Of the hundreds (or so it seemed) of extracurricular activities on offer freshman year, I decided on fencing. I have no idea why: I was completely un-athletic and had never played a competitive sport with the exception of a short sailboat racing career that ended when I crashed my Penguin into another and decided I was never going to another regatta. In elementary-school softball games I stood as far out in left field as I could; in high school I fulfilled only the minimum P.E. requirements. So, fencing. I think there may have been one other girl at the first practice, during which it became clear that the coach, a prickly little Eastern European guy, didn’t think girls were up to the sport. Among other painful exercises he had us duck-walk repeatedly around the room. I’ve blocked out the rest. I lasted two weeks.
Barbara Johnstone [BK]

Given hydrostatic pressure of x and angle of y calculate distance to…

There we were sophomore year, musing on the water bed. I must have complained about an upcoming exam in Prof Peter Parker’s (aka Spiderman) physics class. Before you know it we had developed a question to leave on classroom seats surreptitiously just before the exam. It had to do with the optimum distance between a man and a urinal …
Jim Pavle [BK]

I don’t remember who was hung or who was doing the hanging.

Space time

Hmm. Do I have to pick just one? Perhaps it was when I was helping out at some event and learned to make a Black Russian? Strong and sweet. Definite recipe for problems in the morning. Or, maybe it was the time that I joined the streaking event on the old campus. Why in the world was that fun anyway?? Oh, I know what was the absolute dumbest! As a Computer Science geek, we spent time in the lab with our Digital Equipment Corporation’s PDP-11 computers. These were mini-computers with all of your data stored on these cassette tapes. And I got into some weird version of a Star Trek game that you loaded from a tape and played on your terminal. Not sure if I spent 500 or 1000 late night hours playing this game. In one semester. And I mean late. Since you wouldn’t want to be interrupted by someone who needed the terminal to actually do work, typically one would start after midnight. I wonder what kind of student I could have been if I never met this very important game. Wins the Dumbest Award for me.
Harvey Kent [ES]

Slipped myself a Mickey

Before I got to Yale, I had been a good boy. I had not even so much as drunk a beer, much less anything stronger. When I got the Master’s invitation to come to the freshman reception at the Master’s house, though, I didn’t want anyone to think I had no idea I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to alcohol. The Master of JE was Beckman Cannon, who came from a wealthy Dutch family in New York City. Master Cannon was an imposing figure. He married the daughter of the Mayor of Newcastle, England, which resulted in his speaking with a debonair English accent. In those days, no one thought anything about serving alcohol to eighteen year olds. Master Cannon had all the fixings for whatever drink you might want. I had heard of a gin and tonic, so I found the gin bottle, got a glass with ice, and began pouring. I didn’t want anyone to think I didn’t know what I was doing, so, just to be on the safe side, I filled the glass about two-thirds full of gin. My actions caught Master Cannon’s attention. He walked over as I reached for the tonic. “My,” he said. “You like yours stout!” “Yeah”, I said, flustered. “That’s me. I’m a stout kind of guy,” or something to that effect. I then drank down the contents of the glass. My head started spinning soon enough and I politely excused myself from the Master’s party and staggered back to McClellan Hall on the Old Campus. I fell onto my bed and still remember the room spinning around me for the next several hours.
Bill Lunn [JE]

Vetting my roommates

Despite countless dumb things I did as an undergraduate, one stands out from the very first day. I had spent the summer before freshman year on campus learning Italian, largely because my family had dropped me off and then gone back to the Philippines. It’s a long story. But after spending the summer on various people’s couches, I moved into the dorm early, where my two roommates were Kim Noling and Tricia Tunstall, who had grown up together and gone to the same school in New Jersey. They were under the impression that my father was an ambassador. By that time, a few months in, I was a full fledged late blooming hippie, and in addition to moving myself in, I acquired two stray kittens and brought them in too. Kim’s and Tricia’s parents were very proper, and also kind and said nothing and moved their furniture in, among them bean bags, which the kittens promptly pooed on. We had a two-room suite and Kim and Tricia took one and let me have the other to myself, with kittens. I have no idea what happened to them but Kim and Tricia were tolerant enough to remain lifelong friends. And just to add I have never given up on the pet front. Today, living in rural Hong Kong, I have six dogs, two cats plus my housemate’s cat, two turtles, and 17 birds, a number which keeps increasing.
Edie Terry [PC]

Paging Mr. Walker, Mr. Johnny Walker

When I was a sophomore, I became friendly with a bunch of hard-drinking senior men in Saybrook. The night before Christmas vacation, they took me bar-hopping. I was so drunk, I don’t know how I got back to my room, and I woke up in a pool of you-know-what. My roommates took care of me, and got me up and cleaned up for my flight home to Chicago the next day. I remember the Connecticut limousine to LaGuardia and I thought I remembered checking my luggage. I made it home looking like death warmed over, but my luggage never showed up. That was the end of my hard-drinking days. Never again!
—Anonymous

Irrational exuberance

Ok, well, there are just so many dumb things I did at Yale that I don’t really know where to start and certainly, there isn’t a “dumbest” one. Was it the time when when we decided to paint BEAT DARTMOUTH on Elm Street outside of (then) Calhoun? Only I was “delayed” by the visit of a girlfriend to campus and arrived, barefoot, just in time to get caught paint brush in hand by the Campus Cops? Was it the time when me and a number of other ‘Hounies took on Berkeley in the world’s largest fire extinguisher fight (We had water-based fire extinguishers in those days — bad idea) resulting in using every single one and creating a massive pile of empties in Calhoun’s courtyard? Was it the time my dining hall assistant manager and I engaged in a food fight across the entire length of Branford’s dining hall…at the peak of lunch hour? Was it…enough already. Let’s just end by saying at graduation, the chief of the Campus Police, laughingly told me that my graduation present from the Campus Police was the burning of my file.
Wes Bray [CC]

Cherchez la femme

There were so many dumb things; it is so hard to choose. Senior year, Ned Deming and I purchased a 1965 Ford Galaxy with 352 cubic inch engine and 4-barrel carburetor. The car itself was pretty cheap, $175, but it was a true gas guzzler and had only a 12 gallon gas tank. The 1973 oil embargo was a major inconvenience. Firstly, gas got expensive. Secondly, gas stations were closed on Sunday. Thirdly, gas lines were long and sometimes gas stations ran out. Knowing all that, I undertook a road trip to Vermont to visit what I thought was a girlfriend (not so much). So many gas stations were closed that it was imperative to stop and wait in line whenever one found an open station. A long (and pointless) trip was made that much longer.
Dan Rouse Rouse [CC]

Check your testosterone at the front gate

One night after attending some parties, I somehow got involved in a shoving/wrestling incident with another Yale student in the Davenport courtyard. Fortunately for me (since the other student was a Yale football player who was significantly bigger and stronger than me), one of the Campus police guys immediately intervened and broke up the tussling. The next night I was using the standup part of the restroom at Davenport and guess who was using the fixture right next to me? Of course, it was the same guy from the night before. We looked at each other and both of us simultaneously broke out laughing. There was no further tussling between us two.
Brent Costello [DC]

Up on the roof: Episode 1

Lots to choose from in this category. Probably the stupidest thing I did was carry over from high school an anti-establishment bias that put teachers in the “enemy” category. Only later on (junior/senior year) did I realize what great people my professors were. I definitely missed out freshman/sophomore years. One of the dumbest things I did (as in “duh”) was to ingest some psychoactive substances with my roommate one night, access the law school through the steam tunnels under campus, and climb up on the roof. What could go wrong?
—Anonymous

I was too distracted, proud, or stupid to get to know a lot of people.

Next time, bring donuts

Here’s a shared memory from Steve Davis and Dan Laskin, Class of ’74 friends from Stiles. We hope it’s OK to submit this jointly. What follows is a little long, but think of it as two submissions, one from Steve, one from Dan. It’s not exactly a dumb thing that we did, but it’s certainly a misadventure – something that we could have, perhaps should have, avoided; that caused some embarrassment as well as fear at the time; and that we both remember quite vividly. In May 1973, at the end of junior year, after students had left for the summer, we both got temporary jobs working on the custodial crew, with the assignment of helping to clean out dorm rooms in the Old Campus. It was boring, and sometimes disgusting, work. (Yale freshmen: what a bunch of slobs!) Aside from earning a little money, the main benefit was that we were given passes to attend some reunion events, the idea being that alumni might enjoy contact with “real students.” Mingling with and observing the returning Yale men at various reunions, we concluded that the guys who had graduated only ten or fifteen years earlier were an unhappy lot: still climbing in their careers, they seemed competitive, stressed, and overly serious. By contrast, the older guys – geezers from, say, the classes of 1923 or 1933 – seemed loose and joyful; physically diminished, perhaps, but dapper in spirit. They’d long since transcended the successes and disappointments of their careers and were simply happy to be there, sharing food and conversation, comfortable in their own skins. Looking back, we can’t help but realize that we, Steve and Dan from the Class of 1974, are now the ancients. We can only hope we’re as content and at peace as the geezers of yore.

But we digress. The misadventure in question took place during the week when we were still mopping floors, emptying garbage bins, and cleaning toilets. Needing an escape from the grime and the heat, we decided to take an evening drive out of the city and go to . . . well, nowhere in particular. Steve had an old Dodge Dart. We just wanted to drive, to get some fresh air, to meander and decompress – get away from the all-too-familiar precincts of the campus, Broadway, Whalley Avenue, East and West Rock. We wanted to lose ourselves in the serenity of a springtime dusk. Well, lose ourselves we did. By the time night overtook us, we were aimlessly cruising quiet suburban streets that curved, rose, dipped, and led deeper into the unknown. At one point we stopped the car to just sit and talk in the dark. Suddenly, two sets of bright headlights came up behind us. Before we knew what was happening, three or four men had emerged and ordered us to get out of our car. They separated us and started jabbing us with questions. What were we doing there? If we were just out for a peaceful drive, why had we stopped in this cul-de-sac? They were working with the police, they said – perhaps they were some kind of neighborhood-watch group – and it soon became clear that they were convinced we were burglars staking out the neighborhood. The idea that we had stopped in the dark simply to talk struck them as preposterous. “Don’t jerk off the cops,” one guy warned Dan. Steve produced his Yale ID, but they were unimpressed. They opened the trunk of the Dodge and found nothing. A search of the floor and under the seats turned up only empty soda cans and food wrappers. (Apparently freshmen weren’t the only Yale slobs.) “If we’re burglars,” Steve said, “where are our burglary tools?” One of men shot back, “You can just as easily break a window with a rock.” It’s sobering now to wonder what would have happened if we had been Black. Or what might happen in a similar circumstance today. But the posse let us go. We later learned that we had been somewhere in North Haven, where there had indeed been a recent spate of break-ins. We never returned to North Haven. And since that night Steve has never liked the word “cul-de-sac.”
Dan Laskin [ES]

Up on the roof: Episode 2

Climbing the slate roof of the Hall of Graduate Studies to see the sunset was probably the stupidest (I think we were tripping). A classmate whose name I won’t reveal (he can if he wants to) was the instigator. He had taken a mountain climbing course.

As for the pyramid we formed during the streaking craze, punctuated by m-80’s ignited by another unnamed classmate (also the instigator, who can reveal himself if he wants to), which led to a college-wide bulletin from the master (a French professor) that read in part, “Festivities we must have. But blowing off bombs in the courtyard …” Now that, my friends, is a point of pride.
Steven Kimball [MC]

Baby you can fly my car

One of the dumbest things I did at Yale was drive stoned on some dark, winding roads to a party in Litchfield, Connecticut. I think it was a party for the Daily News staff at somebody’s parents’ house? It might have been a converted barn and it was a great space to have a crowd. There were four people in the car with me. I’d apologize to everyone who rode with me that night, but I have no idea who they are. I’m just grateful we all got back to campus in one piece. I’m not the best of drivers even in my totally sober state, so this was a completely idiotic thing to do!
Susan Klebanoff [DC]

Sew stoned!

Perhaps the dumbest thing I did while at Yale was eat a potent marijuana brownie. Sophomore year, my roommates and I decided we wanted to try marijuana. One roommate acquired a “dime bag” — $10 baggie — of the evil weed. We were averse to smoking, so we made pot brownies instead. We ground the entire contents of the bag into powder, mixed it into enough brownie batter for four small brownies, and baked it. The resulting brownies tasted terrible, but we choked them down and waited for something to happen. I had a reading assignment, so I pulled out a textbook and sat down with it. About 20 minutes later, I realized that I was not making any progress in the book because I kept reading the same page over and over. I announced: “Hey, my short-term memory is completely gone!” Several minutes later, I announced it again, then again every few minutes, until my roommates pointed out that I was repeating myself. I gave up on reading and pulled out a sewing project. I had bought cloth to make curtains for my bedroom’s windows and had to hem the edges. I figured that was fairly mindless work. I sat in the living room, quietly hemming the curtains while my roommates told stoner jokes and giggled. When done with the first curtain, I stood up, and found I’d hemmed the cloth to my pants. It took a few hours for the pot to wear off. Since then I’ve avoided marijuana. I value my short-term memory too much.
Jeff Johnson [CC]

Not a creature was stirring

On a dare, I slept in Grove Street Cemetery one October night, on the grave of Betty Colt. She had died at age 22 on that night in 1765. It was freezing and scary of course, and just one of the many dumb things I did. Hopping freight trains was another.
Leslie Cockburn [MC]

Thumbs up: Episode 1

I hitchhiked from Yale to Hanover NH to visit a friend at Dartmouth for Winter Carnival. I did say winter in New England right? A young, beautiful single woman right? What could be dumber???? The angels were smiling on me because I got picked up by nice people and made it back to Yale safely!
Beth Rosenthal [BK]

Use the crosswalk!

I once impulsively accepted a friend’s offer of a small square of blotter paper allegedly imbued with a dose of a hallucinogenic drug. Despite recent news reports of the serious effects of ingesting the wrong isotope and a complete lack of FDA labeling or dosage information I placed it under my tongue. Several hours of intermittent hilarity ensued in a JE dorm room, including that occasioned by my several attempts to close a door that appeared open only to me. In search of coffee and a snack a small band of the befuddled emerged to find York Street strangely bright and chaotic. Heading for a food source on Broadway we needed to cross a busy Elm Street. Suddenly, I heard oddly slowed sounds of screeching brakes and blaring car horns. Time snapped back to normal as a friend shook me by the shoulders and shouted at me – “No running out in front of big moving things with lights!” I nodded my acceptance of the new rule. We made it to our destination. The food was heavenly but, Curses, the coffee was hot and the mechanics of either swallowing it or spitting it out briefly eluded me. How we returned safely to JE is lost to the mists of time and the disruption of neurotransmitters. I consider myself fortunate to have ended the experience with only minor burns to my tongue and the roof of my mouth.
Anne Riney [JE]

Who was that masked man?

The dumbest thing I ever did at Yale? Please see my tale of streaking through Branford College courtyard one fine snowy afternoon, wearing a balaklava, waffle stompers, and little else. Sursum corda! (Op cit. “Favorite memories.”)
McKim Symington [BR]

Thumbs up: Episode 2

I think the dumbest thing I did during my Yale years was repeatedly hitchhiking to New York and other places. During trips to Europe, I had gotten into the habit of hitchhiking and somehow really like it. It was part of the whole free-spirited feeling of the time and culture. Now I can look back and see how dangerous a practice it was. I remember one time, the driver pulled out a gun to show me. Another time, I was propositioned. Glad I survived it all without any incidents … but it was fun!
Steve Bauer [SY]

Thumbs Up: Episode 3

Aside from not signing up for Vincent Scully’s course, even though my friends told me how great it was, one of the many dumb things I did involved sailing. Lucy Daggett and I signed up to race for Yale at the University of Rhode Island our senior year, in November, I think. None of the women on the sailing team had cars. One of the men who was racing elsewhere in New England that day agreed to drop us off on his way. Grey skies and blustery winds stirred up the bay where we were to race. We were experienced sailors, so we handled the conditions well until a rogue gust caught us and capsized our dinghy. Thoroughly soaked, we got back to shore somehow. Then we realized we weren’t so experienced after all – we had neglected to bring any dry clothes to change into. And we had no ride home. We warmed our hands at a heater in the clubhouse, downed some hot drinks and then set out on our travel “plan” – to hitchhike back to New Haven soaking wet. We must have looked pathetic to the driver of the big rig who stopped to give us a lift; he cranked the cab’s heater up to thaw us out. Luckily, neither hitchhiking nor freezing did us in, and Lucy and I have had a few good laughs about our escapade at reunions over the years.
Barbara Borst [SY]

Road rash

I tried to pop a wheelie on my friend’s Kawasaki Mach IV 750 H2 – a triple cylinder, two stroke motorcycle known for its incredible power and speed, being the fastest accelerating production motorcycle of the day. It was appropriately nicknamed “The Widowmaker.” Didn’t work out as planned, but I did learn the profound meaning of the phrase, “Dress for the slide, not for the ride.” (Also, the value of having a good insurance policy.)
—Anonymous

Up on the roof: Episode 3

I remember someone being hung out the window from the top floor of 370 Temple Street. I don’t remember who was hung or who was doing the hanging. But things clearly could have gone really wrong.
Geoff Lowney [CC]

Up on the roof:  Episode 4

Freshman year. My dorm was on the street side of the top floor of Farnham. That was a building, where, as Davenport’s Master Taft recalled from his own freshman year, “The radiators could make more noise by themselves than if you hit them with a hammer.” Anyway, the rain gutters outside the top floor windows were unusually wide. I exited onto the gutter through a window and walked sideways along the gutter to another room. That required (a) going to and around an interior corner of the building, like crossing the inside of an L with your feet and body crossing open space with nothing to hug, (b) going around the turret cupola, and finally, (c) going around another interior corner. I only did it once, in one direction. I didn’t come back the same way. To those of you who are free-climbers, it was nothing. To totally unathletic me, it was a big deal.
David Kra [DC]

Up on the roof: Episode 5

Freshman year, shortly after classes started, I went to an on-campus party. I had never taken a drink before. And I didn’t start that night. But some classmate got wasted and climbed out the window onto the roof. This was a catastrophe in the making. I climbed out after him, grabbed ahold of him by the shirt, and started SCREAMING for help. Several classmates came to the rescue and somehow managed to wrestle this kid back in through the window. I am terrified of heights. I’m not sure if I have ever been more scared in my life. This kid promptly barfed all over the floor and passed out. We wrapped him in a sheet and a group of us carried him off to the infirmary. I do not remember his name. I get the willies every time I think of hanging on to his shirt with one hand and a vent pipe with the other.
Philip Jaffa [CC]