Today has been one of the most harrowing days of I’ve ever had. A new building has recently opened up on campus. They call it Phelps Hall. Sounds kinda lame, almost a little Olympian… but that’s just my intuition kicking in. Apparently though, the building actually gained its name from one of our Chancellors, Clarence L. Philips. I guess the guy seems pretty chill, but I just wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a softball game with him. Or playing catch in the backyard. Or jetting my arms in a sneezing fashion as if I were to “dab” my own eyes into my arms with him. He claims UCSB is like a family, but I’d never call him Daddy, no matter the circumstances.
But that’s beyond the point, as I have even more excruciating details to add insult to injury. To begin my tale of woe, it’s even more important to identify my state of mind as I began my sojourn into the blistering summer heat. Twas’ a regular morning, I leapt out of bed with all the strength an 8am class deserved and quickly ran my toothbrush over my glistening pearly whites. They looked a little dimmer in the mirror, and I remembered that I must use the bleach mother packed in my belongings to keep them looking fresh and clean. I then combed my gorgeous ebony locks, but the tidiness of my hair follicles both confused and enamored me. How was my bedhead looking so luxurious? Resembling the physique of a mangled Greek god’s hair, it appeared almost divine in nature. The curls tenderly locked around one another, appearing to strangle one another, but in reality performing more of a choreographed dance around my ever receding hairline. All of this from one night’s sleep? Good Lord, I shall never utilize the stickiest of mousse ever again. I knew the next order of business was my clothing. I strutted around my dorm in the nude, conqueror of the 70ft2 triple room that lay before my eyes. Gazing gently upon my kingdom, I eventually relegated myself to the drawer, to pick out the snazziest outfit possible.
Should I wear long pants or shorts? Long pants would warrant branding as a heathen, a nincompoop who fails to comprehend the delicate balance between thermal regulation from the body and the gorgeous UV radiation emanating from the sun. Yes, shorts are the thing to wear today! Zipping the fly, I felt a sense of coolness rush over my legs, as my legs were finally freed from their flannel fetters. Upon inspection, seemed a bit short to be considered appropriate for a male, but I paid no mind. I guess that’s just how the fashion is these days? I heard that on some television programme about a young playboy scurrying about Got Ham city in a leotard, but I’ll save my judgments for another day. Now the top, I asked myself, what to wear? Briefly buying into the psychic tradition, I closed my eyes, hoping for some spiritual sign to guide me in the right direction. The letters “R” and “L” flashed like those neon signs at the diner. RALPH LAUREN! Of course! The haute couture of the time, the British sport of hitting balls on horses, and the brainchild of Mr. Lauren, the polo! Wasting no time, I searched my drawer and found the shirt matching my mental image. Dark red, soaked in the wine of merriment from my last “raging” party, and cuffed at the top. After putting on some socks, the brand escapes my mind, I threw open the door and sprinted to class.
Too often, I simplified the task of escaping Isla Vista traffic all the way to Buchanan Hall through a mere bicycle trek. What I constantly failed to realize, however, was that people are not well endowed with bike traffic knowledge. They ride their bikes, appearing to imitate a raging bull in a bullfight, charging into the roundabouts with no fear, looking only for the color red… but this time, it’s the blood of the poor freshmen who dares to cross his path. Today in particular, the bike traffic was especially intimidating. I think at one point I even passed a girl using a cordless phone on her bike, but immediately the thought crossed my mind… doesn’t she need a landline for it to work? Well, as long as she feels some sense of pride in showing off her enormous wealth, it shouldn’t bother me. Another person on the bike path failed to signal his turn, peddling onwards and onwards on the highway to heaven without end. As it turns out, he was sleepy from having to wake up for an 8am after a rather sumptuous celebration the night before. Yes diary, he was punished for his lack of coordination and did indeed crash into the bike racks.
Eventually I managed to make it to class, and what a class it was. It feels like only last year, and I must confess that it literally was, when a few UCSB students stormed North Hall in protest over the lack of diversity in the school’s offerings. So now, rather than reading no black authors in English this quarter we have amped it up to… one. The university says it’s an ∞% increase, but I think they’ve misunderstood how percentages work. Anything that’s not zero is an ∞% increase. You know diary, if this university goes from 0 deaths by koi fish to 1 (and that’s never gonna happen mind you), then will we send out an e-mail saying, ““KeEp iT LOcAl, KeeP It SaFe, because koi fish deaths have increased ∞%.”
Yea, I don’t think so. That was English class for the most part: bizarre and utterly fascinated with the one work of “exoticness” that had managed to penetrate the syllabus. The light in the rooms sort of lulled me to sleep, so I didn’t really direct my field of attention towards the overhead projector. It’s crazy to ponder that the university obliges me to sit through an hour of lecturing at the wee hours of the morning, but then so perfectly primes my brain with signals to sing me back to sleep. The dim lights, the monotonous white noise of the professor, and the gentle texture of the clothed seat against your back as you slouch backwards into nothingness. To put it precisely, I blacked out. Now that I reflect upon the day, I regret not sleeping for more than a total of two hours. My brain feels like an apple fritter, crumbly with a hint of tanginess concealed within. And from that mushy substance… more mushy substance. Frankly, I’m losing my ability to grasp reality. To be even more candid with you, diary, I think I might be drunk off of sleep. Last night, and it wasn’t the LSD talking, but I could’ve sworn I saw the image of a mountain lion doing shots at someone’s soiree.
Nonetheless, feeling slightly woozy, I exited the classroom. I opened my daily planner to execute the next item on my list – TA Hours of Office, located in Phelps 6797. Sure, Phelps was a decently new building, but who was I to judge a building. I certainly didn’t intend to insult the wonderful engineers from Daedalus Inc. who helped build it. Armed with my paper map in hand, I set foot into the hallowed square of Phelps Hall.
The world of Phelps Hall is somewhat difficult to communicate. It acts like reality, feels like reality, and behaves like reality. Only it’s not reality, the building acts as if it exists in another entire existence — a pocket dimension, to elaborate more precisely. As one continues to scrutinize the buildings from all sides, the uniformity seems to randomly appear and disappear at regular intervals. But I didn’t know that as of yet. Venturing into the first flight of staircases, I walked up three flights to find a door. Opening the door, I found myself on… the third floor balcony? At first glance, the area visible from the top of this monstrous building appeared undefinable, seeping into the horizon without end. As I looked around, I saw no “sixth floor.” Was I even in the same building anymore? In all seriousness, someone must, and I mean must, install satisfactory enough signs to illicit proper navigation in the average passerby. How else are we supposed to get through these things! Anyways, with no sixth floor in sight, I once again raced down the stairs to the bottom floor to continue my voyage. This led me to the restrooms, where I saw someone standing outside, writing a letter to their girlfriend who lived in Goleta. I asked him for directions, and he said the cardinal rule of navigating Phelps Hall was Polaris, the North Men’s Bathroom. Wanting further clarification, I implored him to explain his truth, but he simply vanished. Another time shift maybe, or perhaps I was the one that disappeared from his reality? I did not know. What I did decipher, however, was that the Men’s bathroom was still next to me, reeking of all sorts of nasty leftovers. I realized at this moment that the young man was referring to the clearly permanent scent of the restrooms. While most, perhaps many of the posterity, will consider the smell a heinous crime, they shall bear witness to its usefulness as the encounter continues.
Keeping my bearings in check, I alighted the flight of stairs located at the northern part of the square. It was a tumultuous trip, as the stairs tended to shift and turn in every sort of direction. Despite living seaside, seasickness invaded my privacy more than I will ever desire. But I knew, no matter what, I must make it to my TA’s Hours of Office. Why, diary? Because we have an essay due on Sunday, and I procrastinated doing any sort of mental lifting until today. What was the prompt? I hypothesize it was something about the fall of man, but I felt as if I was the one falling through the building in the moment. I was receiving the feelings, which may sound strange now, but hopefully it will straighten itself out in time. So there I was, battling the supernatural elements of the occult, and then I finally reached a door! Freedom! Salvation! Justice! I didn’t know what any of these thoughts had in connection to reaching my TA, but I was overcome with strong emotional energy in the heat of the moment. I practically ripped the door open before deciding to peruse the sign, which I did with a great sense of gratitude. Do you know what it said?
FIERY ESCAPE, DESCEND DOWN THE DEPTHS OF HELL FOR EMERGENCIES!
I nearly leapt out of my seat in shock. Who in blazes gave this signmaker a task like this? This is a repair that requires high prioritization and high speed. It seemed, based on a rather binary assumption of the afterlife, that choosing to go through the door would subvert hell itself, and cheat death. And you know how I feel about cheating… it’s only okay as long as you’re part of a fraternity or sorority! So I kicked down the door with the strength of a hundred men, and now I found myself on the fifth floor balcony. What? Why? How? What even? Who? Did the fifth floor even have a balcony? I reasoned that if this was indeed the fifth floor balcony, then the sixth floor should be clearly visible at this point. Tapping into my ancient lineage of owls, I swiveled my head and looked upwards, and nothing! Absolutely nothing! It’s either magic or a conspiracy of the highest order.
Repeating the same process as last time, I found my way to the bottom of the stairs. Polaris was the next thought on my mind. Locate the bathroom, locate reality. Channeling my inner mapache, I closed my eyes and smelt for the most foul stenches imaginable. Thank goodness the bathrooms aren’t clean, I just want to reiterate that. If anyone ever reads this diary, remember this! I’ll keep citing examples until you believe. Ascertaining the position of the bathroom, I then adjusted my course to the western side of the square. Entering through the door, I was met with a large long hallway, and a long metal box at the end. Health and Wellness calls it a “Rejuvenating Auto-Focus Box”, but utilitarian consensus refers to it as an “elevator.” I told myself, “Pray tell, I wonder what secrets this lovely little box holds.” I planted my feet into the ground and felt the unsteadiness of the entire box, it was shaking violent. I thought I was going to perish in that metallic death trap. My “last” thoughts consisted of saying goodbye to my girlfriend, Adrianne, who I’d promised I would marry if I managed to make it to my TA’s Hours of Office on time. At that moment, the same young man from before stepped into the elevator. He questioned why I looked like I had seen a ghost, and I told him about my impending doom. To this rather grim anecdote, he leaned his head back and laughed a hearty laugh. A laugh so hearty and carb-laden it could solve world hunger. Returning to our conversation, he stated these were how all the elevators worked — that the design hadn’t been perfected yet. Consoling me with a brief hug, he asked me where I was going, and I told him. “Why don’t you just press the button labeled “6” here on the right?” I was shocked, and my mind shook with a fervent indignation. All this time I could’ve taken this to the top! Where was that sign, huh? Perhaps a “Oh, here’s the not-actually-all-that-scary-metal box to take you wherever you wanna go.” Was that too much to ask? Probably… they still haven’t fixed Portola yet.
Then something I never expected happened: the elevator broke down. Looking for guidance, I looked for my new friend once again, but he was gone! If you’re born with a disappearing ability, you should let people know you’re going to vanish before you actually do the deed. C’mon people, basic meta-human courtesy. Much like a prisoner in solitary confinement, I began to get a little bit “stranger.” The walls started to converge upon me, looking to reap the remains of my soul from my crushed corpse. The ceiling transformed into a spike press, capable of draining my blood faster than the average blood drive. I took out my mirror, always kept on hand in my backpack in case I have to dramatically push my hand through my hair to appear presentable. But the image I faced resembled not the once glimmering figure of joy I originated as in the morning, and rather consisted of features resembling one of the Cretan people of Greek myth, thin and pale. My own mortality washed over my every cell reducing me to tears. Stranded in an elevator, with no method to call for help… such is the valiant death I chose!
Do you think this writer was defeated that easily?! Never, diary, has anything bested this guy. I once managed to complete “The Loop” on my 21st Birthday, raid the top of Storke Tower, and even monopolized Poseidon’s throne for an entire week. Gripping the image, I hurled it at the floor, watching it shatter into a million little pieces. I moved on from the person that I was, and momentarily focused on transcending myself into something greater. As the light hit the glass shards, I once again boldly challenged reality and gazed upon myself. No longer was I the Cretan peasant. I was Theseus, slayer of the Labyrinth, and Conqueror of the Minotaur! I would find my way out. First, I had to find my way out of this scenario. Channeling my inner baby, I unleashed the largest temper tantrum my energy would provide, using my feet to defy gravity in short bursts at rapid rates of contraction. A whirring noise commenced, and the elevator was on its way. A “bing” was heard and I nearly stumbled as I threw myself onto the floor. Noticing the ground, I prostrated myself before it and kissed it a thousand times over. One never does understand the concept of being “grounded” until they see it firsthand. But the trial was not over yet!
Just as victory seemed imminent, a noise of the floor went quiet. Professors quickly shut their doors, the locks clicking as they moved without hesitation. Seeing one professor sprint by, I tried to make sense of the situation. She briefly explained to me that something was hurtling this way, and it’s appetite was not satiated until it ate something. When asked whether I could take shelter, she asked me about my major, and I replied I was a Gnome Studies major with an English minor. “English? Ew! Find your own shelter you failure!” she said as she pushed me to the floor and hurried off. I frantically searched the floor, looking for a door to unlock. Everything was locked, even my TA’s office. I decided to head back down to Polaris, and try and escape this crazy place, but to my shock I ran smack into the belly of the beast, the Minotaur!
Towering over my petite frame at 6 feet tall, and featuring 300lbs of pure body muscle, the half-man half-beast lunged forward. To eat me? I refused his request, hitting him with my backpack and knocking him backwards into the wall, hitting the “down” arrow on the elevator. Those fools in the science departments…they said Tolstoy would never come in handy! Collecting himself, the Minotaur unsheathed his large broadsword to engage in blade-based combat. Mirroring his every move, I too garnered the average student’s greatest weapon: my large amounts of crippling student debt. Chanting my magical spell, the bank statements formed a large rapier, more than enough to take out this enormous brute. I was no longer fighting for my girlfriend, my TA, or even more myself. I was fighting for all the students who got royally destroyed by this building, and by this corporate education system! With all my might I thrusted the rapier into the Minotaur, and dodged his attack on pure reflex alone. Blood teeming at the seams, the Minotaur fell to his knees, defeated. I knew as long as this beast existed, more students would never reach their TA’s Hours of Office, alive that is. I calmly walked up to the beast and uttered a phrase I had long hoped would become famous in some sort of karate movie, “Mercy is for the weak.” A swift stroke of my blade put an end to the Minotaur’s antics, and his body went limp.
Victory! Triumph! Graduation! Those were the emotions dominating my mind at this moment. Nothing could displace the true courage displayed here. Then I remembered why I made this trek in the first place, to see my TA. An expert on the workings of this freaky building, I managed to navigate myself all the way to his office only to find out I had the wrong hours… his hours were on Thursday. Nonetheless, it wasn’t a big loss after all, as I managed to slay a great beast on my own merit. No one could take that away from me. As I broadcast my victory to the floor, I haughtily entered the elevator, a king of kings. Another “bing” goes by, and I walk out into the square’s plaza… and into an officer’s handcuffs.
“You’re under arrest for hitting the Chancellor on the head with War and Peace. You’re lucky the Chancellor’s got a good head on his shoulders, or you might’ve been in even more trouble buddy. Here’s a headalyzer test, I want you to breathe into it.”
I had no idea they transformed the local sheriff’s office into a welcome party for me! That was such a fun surprise, so I decided to go along with their ruse. I breathed into their little “headalyzer”, and then the cop shouted:
“Yup, it seems he was cognitively drunk from sleep deprivation. This happens every single midterm week. Someone stays up too late, gets too little sleep, and goes nuts. Thank God for the kid who called in about you randomly walking in and out of the same door for an hour before suddenly disappearing.”
Wow, they were really trying to sell the con to me. So I decided to playfully go along with this antic, all the way to prison. They were explaining to me how the Chancellor was checking the sixth floor of Phelps Hall to coordinate with the building inspector to add hydration stations to the floor. Ha, what a well concocted story full of lies! Next thing you know they’re accusing me of randomly showing up on the floor, aggressively yelling about the men’s restroom and violently waving around Pride and Prejudice and War and Peace in both hands. Supposedly the Chancellor came to “confront” me and I clocked him on the head. What can I say, I just had Tolstoy in my bag!
Here I am now, sitting in a cell awaiting my trial… I really didn’t think I’d have to face another one. The good thing is, all this prison stuff has allowed me to get some much needed rest, and clarity on the situation. I don’t know what I saw that day, but there’s definitely, without a doubt, something extremely sketchy about the building they call Phelps Hall. Why else would they have the Minotaur’s funeral scheduled at the MCC on Monday? They might not believe me, but you do. Don’t you, diary?
— Joe Gaucho