by Fron

on 2016-02-23

Studying late at night, it can be tempting to turn on the radio to see what is playing on the school’s station, PHSS (pronounced, “fiss”). At 3 or 4 in the morning, the programs are often unconventional. One day it might be “Mocha moves dance music,” another day it might be one student’s sleepless soliloquy on the current state of the world, another day it might be “the sound of various things dropping, like pins, toilet paper rolls, and feathers,” on another, it might be a student reciting a book of “American Knock-knock jokes.” It is fascinating, during those early-morning nights when one feels that one is the only person alive in the world, to feel oneself on the periphery as one tunes in to the story of another’s life - or as much of it as can be inferred from the crackly soundwaves.

I discovered these programs when, one night, grabbing my alarm-clock-cum-radio from my bedside table to check my remaining time to sleep before my early flight, accidentally hit the “on” switch. I soon forgot all about sleep as I listened to a mellifluous voice talking about various luminescent creatures in the deep sea. Those soundwaves have echoed in my head as I traveled from Philosophocle, and became a symbol for nostalgia: for in my travels abroad, I have never heard a voice so content with esoterica as the mysterious stranger on that radio whom I have never been able to identify.

Since then I have been a follower of this unnamed radio hour, “programming” my radio to turn on for one hour and whisper into my pillow. Many times, some of the words warp into my dreams. Today, however, I was jolted awake by a voice unlike any I had heard previously, “You know what, no one is listening at this time of night anyway, so I can do whatever I want! I think I’m going to play this favorite tune of mine, it’s called armpit farting, by Yours Truly!” I need not describe the cacophony that followed; I had to shut off the radio and whisper “luminescent jellyfish” a few hundred times before I could fall asleep again.

When I woke up, I prepared to let the radio program be a forgotten nightmare. Imagine my horror when, arriving at Introduction to Data Science just in time as the teacher started lecture (using the methods of the course, over a period of 20 days I had found the exact second I should leave the dorm to arrive on time to class 95% of the time), I found that the entire front row of students had started to engage in that vulgar activity, and the rest of the class was erupting in laughs, some genuine and some uneasy! I had always thought myself one of few that listened to the unnamed radio hour, but now I realize my error in believing that something so interesting could escape the attention of students who fed on soul-enlightening moments. (It is the same error of romanticizing that one is the only person in existence late at night.) The whole incident had become “viral,” and a quite many people had obtained recordings of the 11:58 performance, much to my dismay in the rest of the classes. I wished I could be as nonchalant as the professors, who knew that to object was the fan the flames of student ridicule (“throwing nuts from heaven”), but could only, alas, whisper “luminescent jellyfish” to myself.

No one was happier about the incident than Yano, whose thesis had been “Virality as a natural phenomenon.” We had prided ourselves on the resistance of Philosophocle to the crass forms of virality that, in the outside, digitized world, was symptomatic of attention deficit disorder, temptation irresistance, and a general sense of modern meaninglessness, so Yano had little to write about until today, when he can be found dashing from classroom to dining area to common room with a recorder on hand, cataloguing the first viral outbreak as it occurred.


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