At New York University in Manhattan, many of the 2700 students who arrived on campus last week remain quarantined in their residence halls, pending results of their COVID-19 tests. According to a Chronicle of Higher Education article, “quarantined students are only allowed to leave their rooms for medical reasons” (August 26, online).
Before you start feeling sorry for these young people, consider the saga of Gabe Snafflin, a freshman who entered the College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, Missouri) in the fall of 1964.
Due to a housing shortage on campus, Gabe was temporarily assigned to a windowless, single-occupancy fallout shelter in a dormitory sub-basement. In early October of that year, a chlamydia outbreak occurred at the school, and students were required to stay in their rooms until College officials notified them that it was safe to leave.
Unfortunately, the residential life staff forgot that Gabe was living in the shelter. As a result, they failed to inform him when the quarantine ended in mid-November.
Long story short: Gabe did not exit the shelter until June, 1984, when the building was about to be razed to make way for a new, upscale residence hall (Lookout Towers), and he was discovered by a member of the demolition crew who was positioning dynamite in the sub-basement. Given that the shelter had been well-stocked with food and water, Gabe was in good health — but exceedingly pale. (“He kinda looked like an over-sized albino mole rat,” according to the crew member.)
Exceedingly sheepish, Gabe later claimed that he had no idea that so much time had passed while he was quarantined: “Without a window, it was hard to keep track of the days and nights. I just figured that the chlamydia epidemic was lasting a lot longer than they initially thought it would. Those photos they had showed us of what chlamydia does to your private parts were pretty scary, and I didn’t want to take any chances by leaving too soon. I was all about keeping those parts in tip-top shape for that special someone who would become my wife.
“I spent most of those 20 years reading and re-reading my Bible, along with the instruction manual for the shelter’s dehumidifier. Believe me, by the time I got out of that place I knew my way around a dehumidifier!”
Gabe’s parents were relieved that he had been found. According to his dad, “we never doubted that our son would turn up some day. We had no idea that he was living in a fallout shelter. You know, he’s been an odd kid from the very beginning. Bernice, tell the reporter about Gabe’s sock farm.”
Less than three months after departing the fallout shelter, at the age of 38, Gabe met and married Ginger, a local exotic dancer, and moved to the Australian outback, where he secured employment as a kangaroo pouch cleaner and dehumidifier repairman. Now 74 years old and retired, he has no regrets about his college misadventure: “Gosh, if I had come out of that shelter when I was supposed to, I probably never would have met Ginger. She’s a good woman. By the way, I’ve never had chlamydia.”
Note to NYU students: Suck it up.