VIEWPOINT Swimming Across Potomac Makes Memorable College Story By Mark Mulvanny

I swam across the Potomac at 1 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13. I don’t want any medals or cookies and I haven’t gotten any yet. What I do want is to explain why I think my risking hypothermia, hepatitis and who knows what other disease was worth it.

Like any other eager freshman I had goals when I came to this university. I wanted to succeed at and enjoy academics. Also, when I wasn’t in class, I wanted to accomplish things not involving bars or television.

These are goals sure to put a smile on an interviewer’s face. However, along with these I had a few that would probably confuse the poor guy. Freshman year, my friends and I decided that, among other things, we wanted to: get a pet fish from the observatory, decorate our rooms with props from New South theme nights and mail the hands on Healy Clock to the Pope.

I am not saying that these ideas are original or even attainable. That clock tower prank is really tough. We weren’t looking to win any awards. We had just left home with only a vague sense of direction and we wanted to have some senseless fun. We were also startlingly immature. I am in no way advocating this kind of behavior. However, I think it has its place in college life, and not just in freshman year. My father waited until he was a senior in 1971 to post flyers on campus advertising free pitchers at a popular off-campus bar.

He has a lot of stories from college. But his smile is widest when he tells me how cool it was to get free beer that night. The place valiantly managed about an hour before it had to turn away hundreds of undergraduates. Whether or not my dad wanted me to come here with that story in mind, I did. He taught me that what I do on a whim could be the most fun I have in college. Freshman year I followed a lot of whims. I had a good time, but I didn’t feel like I had that one experience I wouldn’t forget. I just lost a lot of time in exchange for plastic lobsters, cardboard candy canes and one fish in a bucket.

I calmed down in my following year-and-a-half at school and made an attempt to leave the ridiculousness behind.I succeeded more or less until last Wednesday.A midshipman and a sports editor from this paper brought back my silly impulses from 13th grade.

I am half pleased and half disappointed that swimming from Potomac Boat House to the Virginia end of Key Bridge was not my idea. As I handed my clothes over to friends of ours to carry across the bridge I wondered why I was going with these two. I arrived at what remains my answer: I couldn’t just watch them; I had to do it.

You could argue that my decision was made by peer pressure, but I disagree. When I walked on the rocks toward the water I thought of what it would be like to tell the story. Would I have anything to add from my own experience or did I just watch?

I swam across the Potomac mainly for myself. I wanted my own story about how ridiculous and unwise we were for risking infection for no apparent reason.

As dumb a decision it was – and it was very dumb – I am glad I swam. Going out there taught me that I needed to have a little ridiculousness in my life. I also learned that I should be a part of every story I want to hear.

Mark Mulvanny is a junior in the College.

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