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An Issue of Priorities

Squirrels, Finals and Procrastination

It is Thursday night. My phone rings. It is Ian demanding I come over. I have an 8 a.m. test the next morning, and finals week is quickly approaching. But his roommate has white chocolate covered Oreos hidden in the fridge and I have sugar cravings. It’s an issue of priorities.

Fifteen minutes after Ian’s call, I walk into he and his three roommates’ shabby college house. Besides the sound of the squirrel rustling in the wall, the main floor is empty and silent before Ian walks in to greet me. He’s holding a collapsible shovel—my collapsible shovel, an extra I loaned him a few months before.

He places it in my hand, before pointing me out the back door and into the backyard. It is borderline abandoned, littered with rocks and blackberry bushes like a forgotten freeway underpass. Peeking through one of the bushes is a battered Toyota Tacoma, its bed filled with snow. I do not ask where it came from, although I am soon informed it’s from the Zamboni dump at the local hockey rink. I simply start shoveling.

A half-hour later a Subaru arrives, a collection of PVC pipes and corrugated tubes roped onto its ski rack. By 11 p.m. there is mix of wood pallets and tubes stuck into the snow. Two of Ian’s roommates pull their cars into the backyard and flip on their headlights, sacrificing their batteries to illuminate the impromptu terrain park. Led Zeppelin blasts from the house as we make last-minutes tweaks. Then it’s time to make phone calls and send texts, using the promise of snow as incentive to ditch sleep and studying for a night of skiing.

Friends slowly file in from the alley and the stairs into the backyard, many thumping along in ski boots and dragging poles and rock skis. It’s a mixed crew: ski racers, powder shredders, and a few park rats line up at the top of the cobbled-together park, each taking their first attempts at the plastic rails. More than a few crash into the blackberry brambles and overflowing trashcans.

The squirrel from the living room begins chattering furiously from a hole in the roof, and Ian’s roommate chucks a ski pole in its direction. The creature has survived this long for a reason, however; it easily dodges the projectile before quickly leaping to an overhanging branch on a nearby tree. Tonight, at least, it won’t be an unwanted member of the festivities.

The snow soon mixes with the dirt driveway, turning a filthy brown. We slowly figure out how high up the porch stairs we need to start in order to clear the pallet jump, and dial in the wobble in the makeshift rails. It’s an insurance nightmare and poorly built by any standard, but a few of the guests are employees from the nearby hill’s park crew. They seem to be having a great time.

The snow eventually becomes boot-deep mud, making it almost impossible to clear any of the features. Class starts at 8 a.m. tomorrow. It’s time for people to go home.

I sneak into the house with my ski boots on, sticking my head in the fridge and ignoring the muddy smears on the floor behind me, or the core shots in my skis leaned up against the wall. I was promised Oreos, and those sugar cravings are calling.

It is 2 a.m., my clothes are ripped, stained, and smell of trash from my encounters with the garbage can. In six hours I’ll be struggling over 19th century British aristocracy, most likely cursing my decision to abandon studying for these snow-centric shenanigans. But at this moment, my only focus is the Oreos I just discovered hiding behind a milk carton. They are almost gone, so I leave one in the package and return it to its place in the fridge before grabbing my skis and walking out into the morning.

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