Phantom of the Basement

Many college students try to do too much at once their first year and wind up succumbing to the stress and experimenting with drugs and alcohol and fire arms and eventually become the subject of an exposé on “Hard Copy.” This is the last thing I want to have happen to me, and as long as I can avoid getting too stressed-out, I think I can avoid it. So I have decided not to attend any classes this semester. This should reduce my stress rate enormously; as I recall, it worked fairly well in high school.

Really, I don’t even have time to go to class, because there are so many traditions to be perpetuated. I know this because during the orientation days, there was a thing we were supposed to go to (although I didn’t) called “Traditions Showcase.” Presumably, this was a thing where they were going to tell us what all the BYU traditions were. This seems rather extraneous to me, though. I mean, if something is a tradition, doesn’t that mean it’s something that generally goes on occurring, therefore making it unnecessary to tell us about it, since we’ll surely find out about it before long anyway, it being a tradition and all? I suspect the things they talked about at the “Traditions Showcase” were things that weren’t really traditions, but that they wanted to be traditions, so they hoped that if they told us they already were traditions, we would start perpetuating them. (“OK, kids, one of the long-standing traditions here at BYU is refraining from having food fights in the cafeteria!”)

One big tradition with which I have become personally acquainted is Hanging around the TV Room in the Basement of Deseret Towers 24 Hours a Day. In my hall, there’s a guy who is doing his darnedest to keep this tradition alive. I think he’s the Phantom of the Basement. Every time I go through the TV room, he’s in there, stretched out across the couch, watching whatever is on. Every single time. I don’t think he has any classes; if he does, he doesn’t go to them. Because he’s always watching TV.

Now, if he wants to watch TV all day, that’s his business, but he’s a horrible TV-viewing companion. For instance, whenever someone on TV says something funny, he will repeat the humorous statement aloud, as if to acknowledge that yes, he did in fact realize that it was funny. For instance, if David Letterman says, “Tonight’s show is the greatest show in the history of television,” Dan will say, “…the greatest show in the history of television!” and then kind of chuckle to himself.

As I recall, the people of the Paris Opera House tried to get rid of the Phantom of the Opera by tracking him down to his underground lair. That won’t work in this case, because the Phantom of the Basement is always in his underground lair. That’s the problem. So maybe we’ll drop a chandelier on him. Maybe that could be a new tradition.

(Eric D. Snider is a freshman at BYU. He is from Lake Elsinore, California, and he has seen “Phantom of the Opera” in Los Angeles twice.)

His name was Dan; I don't remember his last name. Everyone knew who he was, and everyone knew that he was always in the basement. He was a legend. One time his dad came to Provo to visit for the weekend, and we saw them together, father and son, watching a football game on TV. It was kind of sweet, actually.

When I wrote more or less this same column for the Lake Elsinore News a few months earlier, I added a second reason why Dan was an annoying TV-watching companion: He picked his nose and ate his boogers. It's true, but the Lake Elsinore News cut it out. I guess I didn't even bother trying to get it in the Daily Herald.

People who know me will tell you without hesitation that I am very choosy about my TV-watching companions. Certain things really bug me, and Dan's "repeat-the-thing-before-laughing-at-it" is up there on the list. I don't know why this bothers me, but it sure does. If given the chance, I'm sure I could make it bug you, too.