Columns / Discourse / May 20, 2009

Up in smoke

Guys, what on EARTH is the issue with our sewer system?

Does this happen in other areas around the globe, or is it some sort of Galesburg geographical (and geological) anomaly? Does the world’s excess of carbon decide to leak out of Knox’s manholes in a gaseous state every once in a while? If so, why does it smell so sulfuric? I’m not the only one who finds it completely bonkers. Just this afternoon, I found both prospies and alums alike peering down at the billowing sewer, the area around which has now melted to mud from the steam’s damp emissions. As I passed, one woman asked me, “What…is….that? Do – do you have any idea?” I told her no, unfortunately, but I have a feeling that even if I had a logical response involving atmosphere and pressure, what she really wanted was a solution to this epic oddity. It really is quite stinky, truth be told.

Taking on the nickname of “Old Faithful,” the ever-present geyserlike column is becoming more of a campus staple than even the mudpit can claim to be, which at least has the decency to disappear into the grass once in a while. (That is, of course, until the grass dies again. And again. Gotta love the effect of salt and gumption!) Sewer stench occasionally wafts over me as I sit on the Gizmo patio – my haunt of choice – and sure, by the time this goes to print there may be only a trickle of steam remaining, but I’ll narrow my eyes at it and know that it will soon return full force.

I took to the streets to ask around about the speculated sources of such a sight. Andrew Polk boldly postulates that the smoky steam is Dante’s Peak. Brady Vaughn writes it off as a necessary evacuation of moisture levels in the ground. According to Meredith Noseworthy, it is “Logically, laundry from Seymour. Otherwise, perhaps it is a byproduct of science experiments that will turn us into mutants.”

I am far more inclined toward the latter half of Meredith’s speculation. If given the option of believing in the presence of aliens or washing machines on campus, is the choice not painfully obvious? Despite its olfactory unpleasantness, the best part about Old Faithful is that it may be whatever we wish it to be. Are you a “Lost” enthusiast who never gave up hope that the smoke monster would return to the island? Then deem it so. Are you an aspiring illusionist whose dream is to succeed with an amazing vanishing act? Use the smoky pillar to your advantage (but wear a nose plug). Are you self-conscious about your cigarette smoke? Go puff amongst the cloudiness and no one’s the wiser.

Spring term has the tendency to liven things up around here. We’ve seen that already this year with the heated housing debacle, the renovation (and rock-outs) of Wallace Lounge, and soon enough, with Rah-Rah Fête. I’m more than okay with being wrong in my conjectures about the source of Old Faithful, because much like discussing the ending of the final Harry Potter book before its release, it’s something to discuss without consequence. Isn’t that a magnificent type of forum, particularly with cumulative and weighty finals heading our way?

One more thing: if you know the real reason the sewers are belching, don’t tell me. I’ll only think you’ve become a full-fledged mutant.

Marnie Shure


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