Monday, September 21, 2009

My. Best. Hack. Evar.

So I swung by the old Alma Mater during a recent trip, and walked around the campus to indulge in a temporal fugue state for a bit. ("Nostalgia ain't what it used to be!") Memories came back -- mostly a lot of studying, leavened by occasional collegiate high jinks. For example, in the courtyard of my freshman dorm Risley Residential College, I was overjoyed to find the evidence shown here:

courtyard of Risley Residential College

Let me explain.

Risley, like most of the buildings on campus, is heated from the central steam plant. As a Californian, this fascinated me. In particular, unlike conventional residential water heaters, the hot water never ran out! You could stay in the shower indefinitely. What bliss!

The other crucial ingredient: In the basement laundry room, there is a large industrial sink, and I noted that the faucet had both a hot water tap as well a male thread that would fit a hose.

One depressing night in the winter of (here I must guess) 1982, inspiration hit. I'm pretty sure it was my idea, but I definitely had co-conspirators, whose names have sadly evanesced from my memory with the passing decades (Vince/Zod?) One of them had a car. We proceeded down to an all-night drugstore on Route 13. This being some time before computerized inventory control, we managed to obtain a capacious kiddie pool as well as a length of hose in the middle of winter. Put together, we managed to run hot water from the laundry room sink through the hose out a window to the kiddie pool, thus providing a cozy winter hot tub. I remember with great pleasure the steam rising over the snow, and the fetching company of as many Risloids as could physically fit in the pool, drinks in hand. Ah sweet college days!

Having met a Risloid of more recent vintage, I was absolutely ecstatic to learn that this activity continued well into the nineties. Evidence suggests that it even became clothing-optional (infogirl.org blog link, scroll to Jan 18). So to explain the picture above, it is a kiddie-pool-shaped depression in the Risley courtyard grass, precisely a hose-length from the laundry room window: evidence that the tradition continues today, nearly three decades later. I may not have many accomplishments in my life, but I'm extremely proud of this small one.

Postscript: Wandering around Black Rock City at Burning Man 2011, I espied a encampment with a large sign announcing "Risley" with cartoon crenellations. Could it be? It was. I introduced myself, told the story of the hot tub, now known as "pool," and was welcomed into the community. A ceremonial "pool" was held by the Man before the burn (dry because of logistics), and the clothing-optional tradition was confirmed.

Tagged: hacks
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