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Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?

Episode 166

Take a Letter


Dear Jasmine,


     I've never done this before. Written a letter, I mean. On paper. I've written a lot of emails to people, but emails aren't really letters, if you know what I mean. They're more like phone calls when you don't feel like talking a person. A letter on paper, on the other hand, is real. It has substance. There is the thickness of the paper, the light cream color, the black ink on the page, and there's handwriting, my handwriting, not just some generic typing font. It's Had Fleece, not Times New Roman.

     You can delete an email without even opening it. I guess you can throw a letter away without opening that either, but I think it might be harder, because a letter is so tangible.

     I hope you can read my handwriting.

     It is late Friday night, and I am thinking of you. I think of you a lot. All the time, to tell you the truth. I can't stop, no matter how much I try. But something tells me that you are not thinking of me. Our relationship is not what it should have been. It's certainly not what I wanted it to be. When I first met you I felt something special, something different. Other girls I've gone out with were very nice, but being with them never felt the way I felt when I was with you. I can't describe what the difference is because I don't understand it. Just talking to you at a debate tournament would make me a little nervous. I could feel my heart beating a little faster and harder, and I'm not trying to be poetic or anything, because it's really true. You could make me nervous, but I couldn't take my eyes off you, and I wanted nothing more than to just sit with you and talk and be with you.

     I know I made a big mistake. You know I made a big mistake. I guess you know I'm talking about you know who, who I really don't want to talk about. I do not think about her, ever, except to wish that I had never met her, because she ruined my chances with you.

     Has she ruined my chances with you? Are we really over before we even got started? Do you think you might ever see your way clear to giving me one more chance?

     I know that your team has broken up, so I probably won't see you on the circuit anymore, which is really depressing. I'm going to Gladecreek next weekend, which I'd be looking forward to a lot more if I thought you were going to be there. Other than that, I'm working on college admissions letters, which are really a drag. What do I think is so special about this school over every other school, or what would I do differently if I could be five years old again, stuff like that. It drives you crazy. I did early apply to Princeton, but I'm not very hopeful about it. I think the only reason my guidance counselor supported it was that she had all the really likely early candidates apply somewhere else, and she just wanted to fill the New Jersey gap. Not that I don't like the school or anything, I mean, I would really kill to go there. Maybe I could get to meet Peter Singer, and he and I could go out and save the cows and kill the babies, which is what he's famous for, except to tell you the truth, I've read him a little bit and he's not as nuts as people say he is. I mean, how many living philosophers are there these days that anybody cares about anyhow?

     I only have three pieces of paper, and they're filling up fast. I really don't know what else to say. What I'm trying to do is pretend that we're together, and maybe this would be the sort of conversation we'd be having if that were true.

     Except, it will probably never be true, will it?

     I miss you so much.





     Had Fleece reads the letter over, surprised to find that there aren't any spelling errors that he can detect. Another thing about a letter on paper is that there's no spell checker. His handwriting looks clear enough, except that he's used to it, so of course it looks clear enough to him. He got the small sheets of stationery from his mother, along with a little padded envelope. He folds the sheets and puts them into the envelope, then licks the envelope to seal it.

     He stares out of his second-floor bedroom window. There is a little wind astir in the few remaining leaves on the trees, and a car drives along the road as he watches, its music so loud that Had can hear the thumping all the way up in his room. As the car disappears, the thump disappears along with it.

     Had stares at the envelope in his hand. He takes a deep breath and then sighs.

     Slowly, carefully, he tears the envelope and the letter inside it into little pieces, and lets the pieces fall into his wastebasket.

In the Morning, She'll Test the Porridge


     There is a very simple hierarchy in the high school forensics universe: Whatever you are is at the top, and everyone else is somewhere below you, in direct proportion to how close their activity is to yours.

     By this measure, Policians place LDers second, Extempers third, Congress fourth, and all other IEs fifth. LDers place Policians second, then go Extemp, Congress and IEs. One obvious identical aspect of debate hierarchies is the bunching together of all IEs other than Extemp, which at least has some connection, as does debate, to the real world. On the other side of the spectrum, Speechies do differentiate among the IEs, and therefore have a longer list. For instance, an HIer might rate DI second, then Duo, then Prose/Poetry, then Original Oratory, then Extemp, then Declamation, then Congress, then debate, perhaps not even bothering to differentiate between LD and Policy (unless the IEer's school has both, in which case distinctions can easily be drawn). In any event, Speechies have to go down a very long list before they get to debate, either LD or Policy (although it should be pointed out that anybody in any division of Speech and Debate will rate higher in any other forensician's eyes than a non-forensician), and the immediate relevance of this to Camelia Maru is that she is sleeping on the floor. She is bunking in with a clutch of OOers, which was the best Tom Abelard was able to arrange for her since by happenstance there are no girl debaters on the Quilty team, and there were three OOers, leaving room for one more body in the traditional slicing of hotel rooms into four parts. A room can be the size of Cleveland, or the size of a flounder, and still four people will be poured into it. Beds are divvied up by whatever is the going arrangement, usually either an extension of seniority or fairness or sheer brawn or, in certain cases, caginess, where the littlest novice who always gets a bed to himself certainly can, when it's time to hand out the awards, be voted the most likely to succeed as Presidential Legal Counsel In Thirty Years Or So, or at least be considered for the next edition of "Survivor." Camelia, as an outsider (but not a complete outsider) and a non-Speechie and a novice, gets the floor.

     She takes it gladly.

     For five minutes.

     When it would appear to be time to go to bed -- there are lots of rounds starting very early in the morning -- Camelia decides to take a shower, as she happens to be a nighttime shower person who likes to sleep clean and wake up on the run, as compared to a morning shower person who likes to sleep dirty and use running water as a second-string hydro-alarm clock. When she emerges from the bathroom, her three roommates are nowhere to be found.

     Shrugging this off, Camelia builds a little nest for herself of pillow and chair cushions and extra blankets, and prepares to fall asleep. As she lay staring at the ceiling she occasionally hears the sound of voices moving along outside her room, while from the corner of her eye she sees an enormous king-sized bed completely bereft of Speechies. She almost drifts off when a sharp pain comes up through her back, and she realizes that she has turned over, and a little piece of floor has taken on armageddonish proportions.

     Still no sign of her trio of Orators.

     Still no one in that inviting king-sized bed.

     So they'll throw her out when they get back, the thinks, popping up and tucking herself under the covers. The bed is warm and soft and clean and empty, except now for herself, and Camelia is asleep inside of two minutes. Her final thought is, This will give them something to write up in their next OO…

Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul


     The issue is simple. It's entirely a question of applied mathematics.

     As a general rule, a hotel shower is a fairly industrial-strength affair. While there occasionally will be a complex procedure for turning on the water and adjusting its heat that would challenge the entire teaching staff of Caltech and MIT combined, usually you just turn it on to the desired temperature, and there you are. Additionally, hotel showers often offer multiple settings ranging from babbling brook to Swedish massage to Force 12 Typhoon, a unique luxury seldom repeated in the average household. Sometimes a good hot massaging shower is worth the cost of the room. Throw in a few little bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and you are in sybaritic seventh heaven.

     Except for certain issues of applied mathematics.

     Let's keep this simple. Let's say that the average shower uses 10 gallons of water, roughly one gallon a minute for the average 10-minute shower. This may be far from accurate, either in the measure of water or of time spent, but it's instructive enough for our purposes.

     The tournament hotel is ten stories tall, with 50 rooms on each floor. That is 500 hundred rooms. (Again, these numbers are simplified, but the point is the same. At the Venerable Bede tournament hotel, in a forgotten corner of either New York or Pennsylvania, or perhaps New Jersey, these numbers are as close as we are going to get without everyone's having to use a calculator.) Since the hotel is entirely booked out to the tournament, 400 of those 500 rooms have an average of 4 forensicians in each of them, while the rest of the rooms are occupied by coaches and judges and kidnapped family members who couldn't get out of coming and judging. That means that approximate (4 X 400) + 100 = 1700 people need to be at the tournament at 8:00 in the morning.

     Of those 1700 people, 200, including Camelia, showered last night. That leaves 1500.

     1500 people X 10 gallons of water each = 15,000 gallons of water. Or to be more specific, hot water. And there's the rub. While the plumbing in the hotel can easily get 15K of water distributed at any one time, the all-important water heater starts to poop out after about 5K. Think about it. Normally every room isn't filled to overflowing with people all rising and demanding showers at exactly the same time. Keeping 5K gallons of water hot and steaming is a major accomplishment, a marvel of modern engineering, and the hotel is mightily proud of it. Keeping 15K gallons hot would require something akin to a leaking nuclear power plant, and is simply beyond the achievable feats of the building.

     None of which anyone stops to think about. The first person up in every room gets a nice steamy shower, and even manages to leaved the mirrors fogged over for the next person, who enters at around 6:13 and finds that the controls start at lukewarm and devolve to Scott of the Antarctic in about three minutes, at about the time the person has gotten up the nerve to step behind the curtain.

     This is when the cursing begins.

     The average person has no idea what a cold shower is like, nor how much cold they can stand, so by the time the person realizes that this is about as good as it is going to get, and proceeds to give it a shot, they are beginning to believe that this won't be all that bad after all.

     Bad guess.

     Talking a cold shower at roughly six o'clock in the morning when you're at a strange hotel and you're at best the second person in there so far and they're already beating on the door to get you moving and your hair is feels as matted as if you've been pouring maple syrup over it so you've got to shampoo it although you'll be damned if you'll quote rinse period repeat end quote.

     You can conceivably wash your hair and keep your body relatively dry and therefore warmish, but sooner or later you'll splash at least some of that Ice Nine on your naked self, or decide that you'd better give at least the old oxters a scrub-down, at which point the screams you hear will be your own.

     "There's no hot water," you say, coming out of the bathroom only half-dressed, to get somewhere where there's at least a semblance of some heat.

     "I'll call the front desk," the next person to go in says, believing that only this room is suffering plumbing issues, and all that is needed is a bang on the pipes, and all will be well.

     Except, of course, this same situation is occurring in 400 rooms throughout the hotel, and the front desk has long ago taken the phone off the hook. They, unlike their callers, have done the math. Plus they've seen this same thing happen year after year during the Venerable and one or two other times when the entire hotel is rented out for a single event. So the front desk knows what to do.

     They hide their heads in the sand. And suggest to anyone who comes down in person to complain that they try taking their shower at night, when there's less demand on the hot water heater.

     Good advice, a little too late. As most good advice usually is.


Will Had ever get up the gumption to reconnect with Jasmine?

Will Camelia sleep the whole night through in bedded comfort?

When will the hot water come back on?

Do we have to see any more photographs of Hugh Rodham in short pants?

Were Tom Brokaw and George W. separated at birth?

We'd be lying if we said we would provide the answers in our next episode: "Why are there never enough green Eminems?"

Go to the next episode due Mar 14, 2001.