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Dave Goes Down the Chute

During my freshman and sophomore years in college, I lived in the Lincoln Tower dorm at the Ohio State University. It was a twenty-something-story building with microscopic windows which were bolted shut. Floors 1-15 were administrative offices. The dorm floors, 16 and up, were composed of eight-person suites — four rooms of two, arranged around a common den and a common bathroom. Freshman year, we lived on the 20th floor. The next year, most of the eight guys moved up to 21. We got our mail from boxes on 15. And mail, of course, went down the Chute

My roommate, Dave Kleinberg, started it. For some reason, about a third of the mail in the box was for me, a third was for Dave, and a third was for Indraneel Chakraborti. I think I might have known who Indraneel was — my British calculus professor called role, and when he wasn't saying decidedly British things like "Bob's your uncle," he was stumbling over a name that sounded like "Indraneel." Dave didn't know Indraneel at all. So when we got in the elevator to go up from 15 to 20, Davey slid Indraneel Chakraborti's letters through the slot below the door, sending them to the bottom of the elevator shaft.

He always gleefully announced, "Down the Chute!"

And on it went, throughout our entire freshman year: four or five pieces of mail a week, every week. Dave so enjoyed the sounds of the letters flitting their way down through the cables and pulleys (they skittered and hopped with a sound like whispers) that he soon found that his down-the-Chute needs could no longer be satisfied by Indraneel Chakraborti's mail alone. Our own junk mail could not, of course, join Indraneel's in the undoubtedly huge pile at the bottom (we might get busted that way!), so the Chute became Davey's all-purpose trash can.

When fliers were tacked to our door, Davey walked with them to the elevator and said, "Down the Chute!"

When the trash can got full, Davey called the elevator and said, "Down the Chute!"

And when the cafeteria complained that students were stealing silverware and keeping it in their rooms for personal use, and then asked people to return it, Davey said, "Down the Chute!"

"Jeez, Dave," someone said as the flimsy spoon cacophonously made its way to the pile of Indraneel's mail at the bottom, "don't you think that might be dangerous?"

"Fah-Q," said Dave in his personal code. "Down the Chute!"

And then went the fork and knife.

Ethan and Tim, the nerdiest of the rest of us nerds, began to study the Chute. They cracked open a crappy audiocassette and tore the full spool from its innards. Tim grasped the free end of the ribbon winding off of the spool's end and held it above the Chute. The two engineers-to-be then paused to calculate how long it would take the spool to unwind as it fell, accounting for various physical characteristics of the spool, like rotational inertia and angular momentum. Their calculations complete — and they did write out actual calculations — they dropped the spool while holding the end. Somewhere below, it finally reached its end and dangled from twenty floors up.

"The Chute is deep," Tim announced.

I roomed with Dave again the following year. Since we had a new address and mailbox, Indraneel Chakraborti no longer provided us with Chute fodder. Dave was forced to improvise.

"The lunch tray will not fit down the Chute," I told him.

"Nor would it be advisable," Mike added.

The tray did fit. It fit very noisily. For days, people were talking about the "ruckus in the elevator shafts." Dave laid off for a while, allowing Tim a chance to abuse the two elevators.

A lot of people don't know that if you stick nails into a pickle, wrap the stripped end of a lamp cord around them, and then plug it into the wall, the pickle will buzz noisily and glow in the dark. Fortunately, Tim did know this. I have artistic black and white photos to prove it, his face lit with an eerie glow over a yellow-hot vegetable. After Tim electrocuted a pickle, seducing from it the fine aroma of burnt plastic, he would stick a string in one end and hang it at face-height in the middle of the elevator car.

"A fine thing," I told him, gazing at the blackened turd in the middle of the elevator. We offered no explanation. We simply reached inside the car, hit all of the buttons, and sent the pickle on a round-trip tour of the dorm's floors.

I can only imagine what people thought when the elevator dinged and the hanging turd greeted them wordlessly, like an accusation. When it made it to the ground floor, where the ID-checkers were doing their halfhearted duties at the doors, our phone rang.

"Tim Auran," said someone who neither Tim nor anyone else knew. "Get that thing out of the elevator." Apparently, Tim's reputation preceded him.

After a while, Dave returned to the chute. Others got in on it.

Our resident advisor came upon a sinister group poised above the Chute. "You don't want to drop that huge fluorescent lightbulb down there," our resident advisor told us.

"We do," Dave corrected him. "But it won't fit."

Copyright © 2001 by Grae Yohe

Grae Yohe is a writer living in Ohio. His website, www.graeyohe.com, received the Best Personal Web Site award from Writer's Digest in 2001. This story previously appeared in his biweekly newsletter, "Is It About My Cube?"