Fewer Clothes, more balls and sunburned Catholics: The Observer presents Scene's annual look at life on the Notre Dame quads
By LAURA KELLY
Associate Scene Editor
What is it about the spring that turns us into kids again? Maybe it's the smell of flowers in the air, the hormones running high, the homework piling up and the motivation to let work slip away.
Whatever the reason, once the sun finally shows its face in South Bend, we flock outside and throw away our worries and obligations as easily as we toss Frisbees into the air. During the week's hectic schedule, the quads are sparsely populated with only a few lucky sunbathers and football fanatics making the most of their afternoon after classes.
But the weekend is when the quad phenomenon reaches its ecstatic height. On Friday and Saturday afternoons, the grassy lawns are covered with sleeping students and avid athletes. Some make an event of it, dragging chairs and stereos outside and gathering groups of friends and beverages with which to entertain them.
What is the best way to enjoy this springtime phenomenon on the quads? To make the most of your time on Notre Dame's manicured lawns, here are the essentials you need to know: the rules and mores of life on the quad.
To truly enjoy your quad experience, you need to stake out your territory. This is the place to see and be seen. Find a sunny patch of grass and claim it as your own. You'll need something to lie on — a blanket, a towel, a comforter or a good-looking member of the opposite sex. Other more elaborate choices involve carrying your dorm furniture out onto the quad. Get some strong friends and lug that beer-soaked couch outside — think of it as spring cleaning. Besides, the quad is just an extension of the dorm anyway. Now the afternoon is yours: pop on some shades, sit back and relax.
The Art of Scoping
Now that you've got yourself settled, what to do? The favorite quad activity of those who don't want to break a sweat is to scope out the opposite sex. This highly refined art reaches a new level outside of the dining hall. Here you can judge others based on their athletic ability, their interactions with friends and their appearance in skimpy summer clothes. While some may think this is the stuff of male chauvinism, girls are just as likely to rate those of the opposite sex. One group of Walsh residents judges male passer-bys on their shorts: length, style and how good their legs look after a sun-deprived winter. Just doing their part to support gender equity at Notre Dame.
Proper Quad Attire
Once the weather warms up, the clothes (like the six-month old snow) melt away as well. Clothing is at a minimum during the springtime months, and sunbathers on the quad take this to a new level. For males, shorts and a baseball hat or sunglasses are all that seem to be required. The women of Notre Dame, on the other hand, get creative with bikini tops, tank tops and short shorts. Girls roll up sleeves, cuffs, even entire shirts, all in the name of exposing every possible square inch to the sun. A bird's eye view of this Catholic University's quads must be a strange one — hundreds of students stretched out as burnt offerings to some sun god.
The word on the lawns is that South quad is the quad for scoping sunbathers, while North quad is the place to show off your athletic skills. Yet both quads are filled with sailing Frisbees, spiraling footballs and the familiar thump of a baseballs in a well-worn gloves. At a school renowned for its athletic prowess, one only expects to find its students engaged in sports during their free time, and the spring months are no exception. The quads bring out the jock in all of us, from the varsity all-stars to the wanna-be beginners. Among the most popular sports played on the spring quads are: lacrosse, football, baseball, Frisbee, lawn bowling and croquet.
No matter what the sport of choice, the eager players have to maneuver their throws and tosses so as not to knock out those who are audacious enough to use the quad for its actual purpose: walking across campus. Once in a while, a gust of wind, an ill-judged distance or a novice player will let a ball or Frisbee sail right into an innocent passer-by. While this can be a trick to meet cute girls, it can also transform the quad into a dangerous cross-fire zone. The key is to keep an eye out for these flying objects and at least attempt to catch one if it heads your way.
Whether it's a hard-nosed game of football or just exhaustion from hours of tanning, every quad-goer eventually craves refreshment. Around the lunch hour, many happy Grab-N-Goers can be seen picnicking in the sun. As the clock on O'Shag creeps closer to the dinner hour, the beverages of choice often turn to alcoholic concoctions, carried in cans by the bold or concealed in water bottles by the cautious. While alcohol can add to the intoxication of springtime, revelers should be careful and not let their fun get out of hand — nothing spoils a beautiful day on the quad (or a happy buzz) like getting busted for your drinking. Maybe sticking to slurping Grab-N-Go juice boxes is the right idea.
There are always a few bold souls who assume everyone on the quad will appreciate their musical taste. So they set their speakers in their dorm windows, make a killer playlist and let the tunes blare. Sometimes the entertainment is greatly appreciated, and adds to the party atmosphere of the quad. Other times an endless loop of Dave Matthews and the best of U93 can get more than a little annoying. And what happens when the wanna-be DJ forgets to turn down his computer speakers, as one enthusiastic Dillon resident did last spring? Everyone on the quad gets to hear the constant, annoying rings of his IM going off at ear-piercing levels. Ah, the wonders of technology.
Whether you are dozing on a blanket surrounded by unread books strumming a guitar under the shade of a tree or tossing the pigskin around with your roommates, when finals loom and the stress levels rise, Notre Dame students flee from the cinderblock cells of their dorm rooms to the grassy green outdoors. Studying and relaxing outside has always been a springtime tradition.
Sure, the sprinklers may unexpectedly rouse you from a peaceful sleep, or the blazing sun may scorch your back as you ponder Plato, but the lure of the outdoors is strong, and the quads call each of us: the jock, the musician, the sunbather and the student.
Amanda Greco and C. Spencer Beggs contributed to this article.
All Scene Stories for Monday, April 30, 2001