Oberlin Blogs

Labor Day: No Babies Allowed.

September 8, 2009

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

Subtitle for today's blog novel: A Tale of Two Picnics.

Today was Labor Day, a welcome day off from the normal schedule. No classes, no work. My personal decision for today was a picnic with my friend Daniel, who, in his year plus at Oberlin, had still not been to the Arb.

The Arb, if you recall far back in my blog about the photowalk in the woods for my film class last fall, is a lovely off-campus location that makes you feel like you're in an entirely different world than a college campus. You can't see buildings, and in many locations, nothing but trees and grass and plants for as far as the eye can see, and in Ohio, that's a fair amount of space.

I got a voicemail from my mom last night telling me that she was headed to the beach the next day to celebrate her day off, spending her time "with her friends, and the water, and the fish, and the sunshine," an obvious jab at my dislike of spending time in Hawaii and at the beach. I didn't have the energy to call her back and tell her I was planning a mainland version of exactly the same day off. Little did I know that it was going to ring more true than I intended.

Monday morning, we threw together a mish-mosh of ingredients at my house: fresh (extremely dense but very tasty) bread, cheese, tomato salad, lemonade, a knife and cutting board, and a checkered blanket (this is necessary for a picnic). We dropped by Harkness for some lettuce and departed.

The Arb is about three blocks from Harkness if you decide to walk on South Professor headed south. We meandered past the south campus program houses, past Old Barrows, where a few people were headed outside for lunch, and Johnson House (J-House as it's lovingly known, a colorful cookiecutter-like mansion across from Old B), and finally to the Arb, where I drew back into my long-ago memory of temperate plants to identify Queen-Anne's lace, goldenrod, and some wild grapes.

We parked ourselves in the middle of a mowed area and set up our picnic, and as we started prepping our sandwiches, I began wishing out loud for the dark clouds to hold off for just a bit longer, just till we finished our sandwiches. Daniel took his first bite, and said "Huh." My initial reaction was that the bread was far too dense for the sandwich, and apologized. He replied, "No, it just started raining." We gathered up everything in the beginning drizzle and headed for a tree at the edge of the field, where it began to rain harder.

Okay, this was not going to work. The only place in the Arb where I knew we wouldn't get wet was under the eaves of the water department barn at the edge of the reservoir, on the far northern part of the Arb. Tramping through the rain made me realize that this, among other parts of the day, could be one of those good scenes in an indie movie, and to the outside audience, this would be very funny. I made a note to laugh later when I was dry again.

Halfway around the reservoir, we saw a bench under a tree, and figured it would be drier than in the middle of the field, and would save us from walking even farther in the rain at the moment. The view was far superior as well, with lots of raindrops bouncing on the surface of the water and a pleasant late-summer rain sound accompanying the rest of our first sandwiches, with just a bit of a drizzle as an afterthought from the considerate leaves defraying 90% of the rain falling down above us.

When it rains, it pours, right? The storm decided that our sandwiches needed a bit more hydration and the rain became a torrential downpour, to the point that the tree was just a holey umbrella and everything we had was going from damp to wet. We decided to make a dash for the water department building, this time going from wet to soaked.

The only dry spot at this building was an indent of a garage door in the side of the building, a narrow 12 foot by 2.5 foot patch of dry land in an otherwise flooded landscape. If we were already going to wait out the rainstorm, we were going to have our picnic, even on this tiny plot of land. Again, total indie movie material as we ate bread and cheese dipped in tomato salad, while rain pooled at the bottom of our glasses and dripped off our hair onto our lunch. To the untrained eye, we looked insane. To the trained eye, we probably did too. A father and his two sons walked by as we were eating and asked us if there were fish in the pond, not commenting on our drenched state or our chosen picnic location.

When the rain stopped, we returned to Harkness, a cool four blocks north of this part of the Arb. We finished the picnic in Harkness basement, more as a "we braved the weather and want to celebrate" rather than "the Arb has defeated our lunch plans." Picnic win.

The only photo I dared take today, from the dry safety of Harkness basement. We had a lovely picnic.


Picnic, take two: Labor Day is always the day of the All-OSCA picnic, a giant extravaganza of co-op cookery served on Old B's sprawling plantation-style lawn for all 629 members of OSCA and any visiting folks who love OSCA food. You may remember Old B from earlier in my story, where we looked at dining members sitting on the porch, before we knew of what terrible weather would curse our first picnic of the day.

Today was the day of the All-OSCA picnic, and with the earlier onslaught of rain, I already began to worry about this second picnic, and if it would befall the same fate as our earlier attempt. Calls to everyone OSCA-related: people cooking for the picnic, Operations managers, DLECs, anyone in my phone who was involved with co-ops this year, were futile. No one knew anything, so in the second rainstorm of the day (this time, with thunder!), we began trudging to Old B in hopes that the picnic wasn't canceled or relocated.

It looked like we were in the right place when we arrived and serving tables were set up with stacks of compostable plates stationed at one end. Someone brought out numerous trays of grilled corn, used every year to tame the hungry masses in the 600+ person line to fill plates with stir-fry, baked beans, rice salad, foccacia, apple crisp, and watermelon.

This year's only flaw in the OSCA picnic plans was the downpour that didn't end till way after crews had finished the massive cleanups. It didn't stop us from eating an incredible tasty collaborative meal with more than enough food for all that braved the rain. Old B had hundreds of people filling the floor of the dining areas and lounges and sitting on all four flights of stairs. It was a very friendly mass, and the food was amazing.


So for my mom with her checklist of the ideal Labor Day vacation, here's how my day measured up:

Good food: tasty tasty picnicky type, not too waterlogged. Check. Friends: Daniel, the most wonderful sport I know, willing to picnic in terrible weather, and the hundreds of OSCA-ians I dined with for dinner. Check. Water: Everywhere. Check. Fish: The man and his two sons didn't find any fish, but we could have swum like them in today's rainstorm. Check. Sunshine: Bahahahaha. Nope.

Way to rain on my Labor Day parade, Ohio. Even after four years, I still don't understand your weather patterns.

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