The basement of Benilde-St. Margaret’s is a scary place. Labyrinthine halls, window-less corridors, and rooms better suited to solitary confinement in Alcatraz than learning are enough to make anyone cringe, but none of this compares to the real torture of the basement. In the very depths of the school, teeth chatter, goosebumps arise, and students huddle together, all in an attempt to survive 45 minutes in temperatures that make the arctic tundra seem like a beach in Cancun.
On the first day of school, I was filled with dread when I found out that I would be spending about half of my day, every day, in this very basement. Students uttered profanities around me while we descended into the darkness, the temperature dropping with every step. I was cold myself, but throughout my many basement classes, my heart went out to the poor souls who chose to wear skimpy dresses on the first day of school and the unlucky ones who got seated under the air vent. How I pitied them. Students found out the hard way that sweatshirts left unattended would soon disappear, and if you were the last one to homeroom, you would be forced to sit right under where the freezing air comes out of its vent.
We, as the basement dwellers––taking classes like Latin, Choir, Journalism, and Spirituality––have come a long way since the first day of school. We have eventually found ways to cope with the bitter cold. Our religion room is now well-equipped with blankets that people can grab on the way into class, and people always make sure to bring an extra sweatshirt to Mr. Wallestad’s room. It is never out of place to see shivering students cocooned in some kind of bright-colored polar fleece, sticking their hands in random, awkward places in an attempt to warm them.
Although I may look like a freak wearing a giant North Face while the temperatures outside are still 75 degrees and sunny, I am warm. And, in the harsh, dog-eat-dog reality of the basement, that’s all that matters.