That Time a Local College Accused Me of Being a Terrorist

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I would like to share with you all the story of that time a local college accused me of being a terrorist.

To protect the innocent, I’ve changed some names. So, let’s say this incident occurred at…the Schmuniversity of Rochester. I knew the Schmuniversity very well, having previously payed them $200,000 for four years’ rent and a “diploma”, which I believe is Latin for “please don’t throw my resume away.”

At least, I thought I knew it well, which is why I was very surprised last year when I was visiting campus with a friend and fellow alumni — let’s call him Jim — and he offered to show me a secret tunnel under Elmwood Ave connecting the River Campus to the Med Center. We were celebrating Jim quitting a shitty job, and after a few drinks decided to head to campus and check out our old stomping grounds. After visiting the library, Jim decided he wanted chicken nuggets from the Med Center cafeteria, which was well known for being at least 50% more edible than the River Campus dining halls.

Jim assured me that he had used this tunnel all the time in his undergrad years, and it would be easy to find. I don’t know about you, but I’m not SUPER LAME, so when someone asks me, “Hey, wanna go check out this secret tunnel no one knows about?” my answer is, “Hell yes I do!”

But there was a catch. The Schmuniversity has its own plant that provides power and steam heat to the campus and hospital. There’s no academic functions in the building, and it generally gives off a “stay the fuck out” vibe. Naturally, the entrance to the tunnel is in this building, which I blindly followed Jim into because that is how all good stories and horror movies start.

After getting inside, down a flight of stairs, and halfway down a hallway that looked like the bad guy’s hideout from an episode of Alias, Jim realized that he was lost. He disappeared around a corner, randomly trying doors on the way. I finally stopped reading Twitter on my phone, and looked up to find myself face to face with a sign that read

U.S. DEPT
OF ENERGY
NUCLEAR

and I don’t remember the rest because I ran so fast to find Jim that I left a Road Runner-esque dust trail behind me.

I rounded the corner to find that he had fished his old ID card out of his wallet and was attempting to swipe into a door marked

AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY
RADIOACTIVE

WHAT?!

I dragged Jim away from the door, explaining that it was probably not the way to the chicken nuggets, and even if it was he wouldn’t want to eat them anyway, and that we were probably somewhere we weren’t supposed to be so screw the nuggets, we’re leaving before we get sent to the special prison. In my haste to get away, I accidentally passed the exit and stumbled through the wrong door…into the secret tunnel. Jim, having regained his bearings as well as his cravings for chicken nuggets, dragged me through the tunnel and through the Med Center to the cafeteria — which was fucking CLOSED!

ALL THAT FOR NOTHING.

We made our way back to campus the normal, above ground, non-radioactive way, and I suggested going up to the top floor of the math department’s building, because it has a great view of downtown Rochester. (This is relevant, I swear.) We entered through the attached chemistry building, and Jim decided he wanted to see if he could get into his old lab. So he swiped his old ID card in the door…and it worked. This security hole made my inner IT professional self die a little bit, but also made me curious. This is also where I become an idiot, because I proceeded to pull out my old ID card and see if it still worked. It did not. We continued on our way, stared at the skyline, and wandered around the rest of campus a bit before calling it a night.

I’m a little hazy on the timeline, but a few weeks to a month later, I got a call from Shmuniversity security asking me to come to campus. I should have told them to fuck off, but as we’ve already established, I can be a bit of an idiot, so I went in. After I arrived, I was taken into a tiny windowless room with handcuffs on the wall.

Investigator Hibsch (whose name has not been changed because he was the biggest prick I’ve ever met in my entire life), asked me to turn over my old ID card. Goodbye forever, free parking at the East End parking garage! Turns out doors with card swipes on them record any “bad” swipe, especially when said door is marked radioactive. They never covered that part in Alias. Hibsch then threatened to arrest me for breaking and entering, and demanded that I explain why I was trying to access nuclear material.

Here’s a few things I should have said:
“What.”
“How is it breaking and entering when all the doors were unlocked?”
“What the fuck?”
Why are all the doors unlocked if there’s nuclear material down there?”
“Seriously, what the fuck?!”

Instead, I said, “I wasn’t paying attention and we got lost!” and then burst into tears.

Over the next two hours of interrogation, Hibsch

  • threatened to arrest me, again
  • told me how disappointed he was in me, inspiring this post
  • informed me I was going to be reported to the Department of Homeland Security
  • asked why I was throwing my life away, and if I wanted to be “Wall Street, or Walmart?” (Answer: neither!)
  • Implied that I was sneaking off to hook up with Jim because I said that I’d had a few drinks
  • Pulled up security footage and said I appeared perfectly sober because I was walking in a straight line

and other assorted Old White Male tactics to attempt to scare me straight.

I ended up not getting arrested, but I was banned from all Schmuniversity property for life, at least “while the investigation was still ongoing,” which really sucked because I had just gotten a membership at the Schmemorial Art Gallery. The ban was lifted a few weeks later, and I tried to move on, albeit with a newfound massive distrust of authority figures and a sneaking suspicion that this incident was the reason why I was constantly denied access to the TSA Pre line for months afterwards. It took me a while to be able to even talk about this with friends, because I felt like an idiot who had done something wrong. But it’s been a year now and I just got an email from Southwest that I’m TSA Pre eligible, so I’m feeling a little less like a criminal now. (I mean, aside from the usual stuff like speeding and pirating TV shows.)

So, that’s the story of why I will never donate to your goddamn Annual Fund, UR.

 

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