There are so many great things to do in Ithaca and I’ve certainly collected my fair share of memories and moments that have helped me to call this place home. I remember going to Taughannock Falls as a kid; I’ve been to the Ice, dog, and apple festivals; and I’ve spent days studying in the little coffee shops in The Commons and going to poetry readings at Buffalo Books (often because I was forced to trek down there when a professor didn’t want to support the Capitalist Pigs at the Cornell store).
Each of these, in their own way, are indicative of this beautiful and weird place that we live in – the intense seasons, the amazing natural beauty, the weird, artsy-fartsy townies who got lost on the way back from Woodstock and never managed to get home.
But I think that my own personal relationship with Ithaca is defined by one story.
I was preparing to go visit my at-the-time long distance girlfriend in Atlanta for Valentine’s Day. I was ready, I thought, as I packed my bags and looked out into the frigid wasteland that is Ithaca in February. I checked my phone, the top right corner of the screen reading -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 with wind-chill) like bad movie exposition, when I realized that I had forgotten a gift. I needed something good, because, you know, another Rice-crispy treat with our athletic logo printed on it that I had sent her months before probably wasn’t going to cut it. I thought, “My god, I’m going to have to sacrifice a finger or two for this one.” I looked around my room for gifts, trying to find something cool that I could give her and wondering if I should just chop off the fingers now and make those the gift in a sort of Van-Goghian display of psychotic passion that would cut out the frostbitten middleman.
Instead, I grabbed my good friend–seriously, if you’ve got a friend willing to brave the Ithaca tundra, keep them–and set out on bus to The Commons. By the time we got down there, half the shops were closed and the storm was really starting to pick up. In my inexperience, I had put on only one winter jacket. The wind cut through me as we bustled from shop to shop looking for something, anything halfway decent. I don’t even remember what I bought her, honestly. It doesn’t matter.
I do remember going to Starbucks after, though, and standing in line as my friend ordered a White Chocolate Mocha for herself and the some seasonal peppermint cinnamon mistletoe cranberry resident girly bullshit for me. We waited there eagerly for our bus to arrive as I downed my coffee. Just as the bus was pulling into the stop, I came to the realization that I’ve never had to pee worse in my life. We walked to the bus, and hopped on. The driver wasn’t there yet (this was one of those stops where the driver gets out, takes a few minutes to smoke, get snack, etc. so I had time. I ran back, but the bathroom door was locked. Now, do I wait in the ten-person line to get the key and probably miss my bus with my friend still on it, only to be left alone in this foreign townie-infested land, or do I run back and risk embarrassment? I choose to run back.
I was absolutely sure I wasn’t going to make it.
We made it to the first stop. One more stop, I thought. We made it to the next stop. One more stop, I think. “Hey,” I said, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it.”
“It’s like 3 more stops.”
“Ok. One more stop,” I think to myself once more. But as soon as the door opens I realize that there’s absolutely no way. I jump off the bus with my friend rolling her eyes close behind and I sprint through the high winds and ice, jacket open, shirt now getting soaked, and find the nearest bush. Let me tell you, -10 degrees is not, is never, the time to have your dick out. But so begins our frosty hike back, every inch of my Californian body aching and burning, while my Northeastern friend laughs behind me, consoled by that fact that I was in more pain than she was.
I made it home without any frostbite, present and all, with fingers colored in a way I didn’t know fingers could be colored. I hopped in the shower real quick. It was a complete wake-up call to the power of mother nature. I came out of it alive, and I think that’s the takeaway. For someone who isn’t used to the cold and had earlier spent 20 minutes complaining to my friend about how no one should live this far north, I gained a sick sense of pride at the realization that I had survived the blizzard.
I think that sort of pride, however quiet, pervades Cornell. Even basic things like buying a gift can feel like a life or death struggle. This place is cold, and it’s hard sometimes. But the cold is something we work to overcome, and it’s reflective of a lot of the other ubiquitous challenges . We’ve all been hit with blizzards, killed by hills, handed hard prelims, or even just forced to deal with the fact that most of our sports teams suck right now. These little common hardships, often self-inflicted, ought to be a source of pride. That Ithaca is an incredibly unique place is something we’ve all heard so often that it’s a cliché, but we should also appreciate that it’s at least partially responsible for the indelible connections between all Cornellians.
Anyways, happy Ithaca Week!