To me, Oberlin can be summed up by a single moment, when I saw my housemate, Sam Quintal ’06, riding his hand-made triple-decker bicycle down the street in a tuxedo and top hat on the way to perform in a concert with his quartet (now at Yale).
Since you weren’t there, and you don’t know Sam, you might need some background to fully appreciate this image. I met Sam our freshman year, when we both lived in Harkness Co-op. At the time, Sam was a shy homeschooled kid from Alaska, a double-degree student intending to major in physics and violin. While he didn’t talk much that year, he quickly developed a reputation for helping out around the co-op at all hours and of being able to fix anything. With that and his busy double-degree schedule, it was rumored that he never slept. I knew better, though, because I had once woken him up at 2:00am to solicit his aid in (successfully) rescuing a contact lens I had dropped down the sink drain.
Over the years, Sam grew more social and became known for such feats as building a snow igloo, riding his bicycle around the lawn playing the violin, and being generally cool in every way (once he started showering regularly). Our senior year, unimpressed by the small fleet of double-decker bicycles built by creative elements at the Bike Co-op, Sam decided to build the ultimate in elevated bicycling--a triple-decker bike. This involved three bike frames stacked on top of each other, and, as you might imagine, it was notoriously difficult to mount. Sam, of course, quickly mastered the skill and took to riding his absurdly awesome machine around town as regular transportation. It was only natural, then, that he would choose to ride it to the final performance of his quartet before they headed off to grad school together. However, when I ran into him on the street along the way, the picture of him in his fancy clothes on his cobbled-together bicycle struck me as a perfect summary of Oberlin: ingenuity, skillfully creative awesomeness, and musical excellence, all incorporated casually into everyday life.