heer excitement radiated across the main quad on campus, as rowdy,
half-naked boys bustled through the wet grass on a chilly December night. It was an impressive showing – not only were the boarding students there, but also a large portion of the day students, who rarely experienced nightlife on campus. Nights at school were normally uneventful. A group of friends would meet up to play video-games in a dorm room or basketball at the gym while some students worked on homework alone in their rooms or with classmates in common spaces and other students watched Netflix or did something else to help them relax. That was what made this night so special – it disrupted the ordinary.
Seniors made it a requirement for all freshmen to be at the quad sharply at 11pm, the beginning of lights out and an hour after quiet hours. No other details about the night were provided to the newcomers. Although the end of first semester was fast approaching, this annual tradition, Animal Noises, was the older students’ unauthorized, at least by the school, welcome celebration for freshmen. The school’s administration had strict policies that prohibited students from being out of their rooms at this hour. But for this one night, teachers who lived on campus turned a blind eye to students breaking the curfew rules. Students, though, would have done it regardless
of the consequences.
As expected, freshmen were the first to gather in the quad. They anxiously waited for what was about to happen. As more upperclassmen joined them with painted faces and bodies that resembled different animals, the freshmen began unraveling the mystery of the tradition. They quickly realized that they were overdressed – too uptight for the occasion. Many of them began throwing clothes and caution to the wind as seniors approached and struck up conversations with them, asking them how their first semester went and getting them ready for what was about to come.
Nolan, a senior, waded his way through the sea of students until he reached a small group of freshmen who still seemed uncomfortable with what was happening. “Hey guys, how’s it going?” he asked as an icebreaker.
Sam, one of the boys, timidly responded, “Yeah, doing okay.”
“Just okay? We gotta do something about that,” Nolan insisted and then paused before continuing, “I’m thinking you’re a tiger – a tiger for certain!” Before Sam had a chance to respond, Nolan instructed, “Take off your shirt,” and then called out to a friend nearby to toss him orange and black paint. After he had the body paint, Nolan smeared alternating stripes of black and orange paint on Sam’s face and torso. By the time he finished, Sam and the other boys were energized and seemed to relish what was happening. Nolan succeeded in what he had set out to accomplish – getting a shy group of freshmen to break out of their shells.
About an hour into the gathering, cries of animal-like sounds – elephants, lions, cows, birds, and so many others – filled the air. A group of juniors, all making various animal noises, formed a circle and two students in the middle, one howling like a wolf and the other roaring like a lion, began slap-boxing each other. Another group started a 7-on-7 tackle football game, all mimicking the sounds of wildlife in the jungle. Some amused themselves in a game of hide-and-seek while others chased each other around the quad. For nearly two hours, students screamed until they went hoarse, and jumped and ran around until they were completely exhausted.
Just before two in the morning, flocks of sweaty and sleepy boys began making their way toward their dorms. A few day students headed to meet their parents for a ride home but most went with boarding friends to sleep in their rooms. Feeling an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment, Nolan and some other seniors strolled slowly around the quad to make sure they were the last ones to leave.