I had been in the library for nearly four hours when I tested the ethernet cable at my table, anguished to find that it didn’t work. Students had already filled every table, leaving me stranded with only one hope: wi-fi. For this one day, this one 15-minute period, I was surrounded not by fellow students but by competitors. I could see every screen around me open to the same page, each menacing hand hovering over its touchpad. Coffee spilled as shaky hands rose mugs to clenched jaws. I watched the second hand of my computer’s clock tick down. We were within 30 seconds of the most stressful part of the semester, worse than any final presentation or research paper: course registration. A full semester of hopes and dreams depended on my abilities to navigate the registration sight better than those I was among.
I looked up to see my roommate sitting across from me. Why was he so calm?
That didn’t matter, it was 4:30 and time to refresh the page. I waited as the circle on my tab endlessly spun. And spun. I could tell it was already too late, my window of opportunity had closed as quickly as it had opened. I could feel the weight of 200+ students on the overburdened server simultaneously trying to leap ahead, a queue that I had the misfortune to be near the end of. So I waited.
Suddenly, the page loaded! “One of your courses is full” flashed onto the screen. It was Winter Hazards, the crown jewel of my semester. I was too slow, something that I now had to reconcile with by going though the painstaking process of removing the course and doubling back to register for a new one. “Yes!” my roommate shouted, celebrating the fact that he had managed to get all of his first picks. His elation was less than encouraging.
Onward I pressed with my registration endeavor. “Add Physics 2 to cart.” Finalize. Submit. It was over. Pools of sweat sat beneath each occupied seat in the library. There was a collective vindication as the defeated and the victorious sat together and recounted their respective loss and success. We were once again one student body, brought together by the shared trauma that is course registration.