I knew the night before that it was upon us. I was up late playing Starcraft (1) with Jeremy, and people sure were up late moving heavy objects around outside. But it was still exciting to be roused by the raucous call of “Wake up, frosh [freshmen]! It’s Ditch Day!” And so my first Caltech Ditch Day experience began, as I moved groggily out into the Blacker courtyard.
Ditch Day at Caltech is like a combination puzzle/scavenger hunt, where all of the non-Seniors — including much of the teaching and school staff! — take part in elaborate themed missions traditionally called “stacks” (the term is rooted in a bit too much lore for this blog). Said stacks usually conclude with “breaking in” to the absent Senior’s room and collecting a group reward for a day well done. One of my Senior mentors, Dave Tytell, had teamed up with fellow redhead Walt, and they created a thrilling adventure in their Redheaded Conspiracy stack.
There were a few of awesome parts to this stack – (a) it was all freshmen, so we had a great time figuring stuff out as we went, (b) it was a bunch of really fun pieces with a minimum of overarching theme, which was a lesson I wish I had applied better to my own Senior stack, and (c) it took us to the tops of buildings and the depths of sub-sub-sub-basements, which definitely was a comfort zone shift.
My favorite moment from the Redhead Conspiracy stack: we dropped a bucket of multiple colors of bouncy balls from the top of the tallest building on campus (Millikin Library) with a news crew watching. We were telling each other as we did it “you know, they are going to ask us to count these next…” and sure enough, there was a note at the bottom of the bucket. But we were wrong – it was far worse than we expected! They asked us to figure out the relative fractions of colors in the bucket! Oof. It was a fun hour or so of combing the courtyard below for bouncy balls, though – we even recruited passersby.