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Last First Day — First First Day

Washington Road at Night

Ahmed Akhtar / The Daily Princetonian

Fall semester classes used to kick off on a Wednesday. A wake-up slap after the four-day fever dream known as Frosh Week.

Yet it's a Monday — which should usher in some sense of normalcy, since Monday is the start of the typical workweek. But come on, it's Princeton. We fly in the face of everything “normal.” Exhibit A: The way we plaster special synonyms over commonplace college things (e.g.  “bicker” for “rush,” “hosed” for “rejected,” “Eating Club” for “co-ed frat”).


Wickedly-strong Terrace coffee in hand, I should be hiking up Washington Road, dodging bikes and scooters, obeying that chastising crosswalk. Three years ago, as a jittery frosh in 2017, I'd be hightailing it up that hill, thinking, “God forbid, I show up late to my first day of CHI103!” Nowadays, I find comfort in tardiness. Opening that Zoom window at 11 a.m. EST, on the dot, only means coming face-to-face with a mural of muted windows, i.e. classmates trying to be lowkey about scoping each other out. And a professor scrambling to find his lecture notes, his eyes darting left and right, rifling through his tabs. Sheer awkwardness. Yeah, I'm totally fine slipping in at 11:02 or 11:03.

During that first week of freshman year, I woke up at 9:15 a.m. one day — only to realize that class had started 15 minutes ago. That morning, I had a moment of self-discovery: lying dormant within me was a multitasking prodigy. By 9:20 a.m., I sailed out of 1976 Hall, spick-and-span. Skincare, done. Teeth, brushed. Shoes, laced. Backpack, slung over my shoulder. (But my prox, forgotten.) And by 9:23 a.m., I scuttled into Chinese class, blurting out a sheepish “Zaoshang hao!

But a missed alarm in 2020 doesn't have the same theatrics as a missed alarm in 2017. No need to bother with the toner, toothpaste, shoelaces, or backpack. There's no flight through Prospect Garden. No Washington Road, no aching calves. No close calls with bikes or scooters. No skittering across the street while the crosswalk bellows, “WAIT.” No sheepish grins.

In 2020, a missed alarm is anticlimactic. Roll out of bed, slap disheveled hair into a bun, boot up Zoom — rinse, then repeat.