Tuesday, August 16, 2016

bucket brigade

the international student organization at RIT provided its own orientation and organized events to help us connect with one another. as one of the first activities, we were given team t-shirts and directed to the athletic fields. there, on the green, hundreds of locals already gathered and stood in loose rows, waiting for something to happen.
our "peer advisor leaders" (international sophomores who volunteered to help the freshmen) explained that RIT was trying to break a Guinness world record. the words "bucket brigade" meant nothing to me. I may have conflated the words "bucket" and "basket" and imagined a rounded wicker thing for gathering mushrooms and berries. "brigade" I pictured as a military unit, a small group of horsed riders with sabres.
but nothing at all was happening. we were standing, out in the field, in the full heat of the day, waiting. perhaps we were trying to form the world's longest line. to keep kids from getting bored, somebody turned on a boombox and we all danced the Macarena.
RIT archives explain, "In 1996, as part of the freshman Orientation program, a group interactive activity was held on the athletic fields. RIT students, faculty, staff and alumni attempted to break a Guinness world record for the longest fire bucket brigade. Teaming up with the Henrietta Volunteer Fire Company and Mumford Fire Department along a 2.5 mile course from a fire hydrant on campus, firefighters filled 50 two-gallon buckets from their hoses."
if I saw a fire hydrant, I wouldn't have known what it was. being in the middle of the line, I don't remember seeing either that or the fire department vehicles. at some point somebody handed me a white plastic bucket, very clean, half filled with clean water. I passed it on to the kid next to me. a few more buckets came my way. I remember thinking how bad it was for the grass, all of us trampling on it, spilling water on it in the full heat of the day. the grass was bound to get burned.
(fire hydrants, sprinklers: file as technology new to me)
there's a Russian saying, "to pour from an empty cup into another empty cup," used to describe a repetitive action that adds nothing to nothing (idle talk, for instance). I was so eager to do something! I wanted some action I could write home about.

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