UW-Madison freshman Austin Bard should have packed snacks before blindly wandering into the George L Mosse Humanities Building on September 2, 2014.
When he frolicked out the front door of Witte Hall with his new haircut, Bucky Badger t-shirt, and cheap-vodka-induced haze on the first day of school, Bard had little idea where he was going. Although he knew to head toward a giant brick of cement with hallway-shaped holes in it, there were still many things he did not know. Crucial things. Such as the fact that even the $50 his dad had handed him after finishing the four-hour job of lofting his bed would be useless in the dark, smelly caverns of creativity that house the history, art, and music departments of UW-Madison.
The problems started around the “No Bike Parking” sign—the one with all the bikes chained to it. Another sign informed him the second-floor classrooms were numbered, but only with the number six, and that he was on his own with the other six floors. The second floor was the ground level, but to lessen the illusion that the entire building was just a giant basement, a courtyard at the bottom of some cement stairs to his left lied in wait like a Venus Fly Trap, as eerily green and symmetrical as the rest of the building was grey and asymmetrical.
Bard’s first lesson as a Badger was that choosing to avoid this courtyard on his way to Philosophy 101 meant almost choking to death on the stench of the second-floor boys’ bathroom. Later in the semester, sleep frozen in his eyes, he would bravely climb the gate barring the icy stairs from clumsy students simply to avoid passing the one room on campus that smelled worse than the cow manure some genius administrator must have decided to store in the walls of the zoology building.
In fact, Bard probably learned more on the way to that first philosophy class than he did throughout the entire lecture, which of course only involved being read the syllabus out loud like a kindergartener. After being cut off from sunlight for several hours, he lost all sense of time. Off-pitch opera music hummed faintly from the music department, though every time he tried to follow the music he ended up at the same broken water fountain.
Beginning to suspect that the gummy bears his roommate had given him as a peace offering that morning actually contained acid, Bard took amnesty under a leaky roof in an empty classroom, having an existential crisis and feeling very much like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. He eventually escaped the Humanities Building by following a mouse through a single pane-less window, and switched his major to Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis after finding out about the coffee shop inside the Education Building.
Bard declined to comment.