My friend Colin asked me one day if I wanted to set a couch on fire. (Side note: If you get a chance to set a couch on fire … do it. Honestly, I cannot recommend it enough). Being the adrenaline junkie that I am, I obviously leapt at the opportunity.Colin’s two favorite hobbies, however contradictory it may sound, are youth ministry and causing mischief. All in the course of one evening, he turned a discarded propane tank into a rocket that he then sent flying down the street; used a baseball bat to knock over dozens of cones in a construction zone; and launched a junkyard commode he had found out of a car window, popping two police cruisers’ tires.
When he made his town’s local newspaper for the “toilet smashing” incident, the community rallied behind him in a John Hughes-ian “Save Colin” fashion. The lead singer of Smash Mouth once cussed him out in front of a packed audience because he stood in the front row screaming to hear “All Star” all night. He won the student body vice presidential election at his school of four thousand students with the speech: “I didn’t prepare a speech because I thought I was running unopposed.”
Neither part of that speech was true. He is probably the only kid in the world who has been cuffed in the back of a squad car that your parents would definitely like better than you, if they ever got the chance to meet him.
When Colin proposed the idea to me, I thought, like a lot of you probably would in the same situation, that setting a couch on fire sounded like a terrible idea. And you would be perfectly justified in thinking it is a bad idea. Is it safe? Realistically, no. In fact, in all likelihood, it is pretty risky. There is no way that lighting a rather large piece of furniture on fire is anything but dangerous. There is, though, some sense of satisfaction you get from setting a bunch of upholstery ablaze that you just are not able to get from your schoolwork. And, in my mind, as long as you are able to find a couch that no one will really miss, it would make less sense not to bust out those matches and lighter fluid.
What else would you be doing with this derelict piece of furniture anyway? If setting it on fire is actually considered an option, the couch is probably disgusting — maybe even a health hazard. I have been at college for all of thirteen months and have seen multiple couches urinated on and sullied with plenty of vomit / yak / puke, whatever you want to call it. Apparently when some kids get enough alcohol flowing through their veins, their bodies decide to call a fire drill, and everything must get out.
What is the worst thing that could happen anyway? An out-of-control wildfire? Pretty serious burns? Incarceration? Yeah … maybe on second thought lighting that couch ablaze was one of the stupider decisions I have made.
I don’t regret it at all though. How often have you heard an adult use the excuse “Oh I was just young and stupid,” to justify a bad decision they made in the past? I hear it on an almost daily basis. (I love to ask elderly ladies why they ever got lower back tattoos). We are in college. As far as I am concerned, I am in the prime of my ”young and stupid” life, and you can bet your sweet bippy that I am embracing it.
With career fairs, independent leases and the highly intellectual conversations had on a nightly basis at places like Dunbar’s and Pixel, it is easy to think we are adults here. Some of us probably are pretty grown-up, but it is important to remember that our college years are among our last to truly be “young and stupid.” That thirty-three-year-old who goes to a landfill with his friend and finds a couch to set on fire isn’t young and stupid. He is just stupid.
Maybe I wouldn’t recommend lighting a couch on fire and dancing around it like the kids from Lord of the Flies (I would), but it is important to remember every now and then that it is okay for us to not take ourselves so seriously. With the stresses of classes and prelims and jobs weighing on us day after day, finding time to be a “dumb college kid” every now and then is healthy. Our opportunities for using the “young and stupid” excuse are waning. I am going to cling on to it for as long as I can — just like I cling onto every other good excuse I know. (That’s right professor. The dog didn’t actually eat my math problem set last spring.) But I know that can’t last forever. One day I am going to have to wise up, but until then I am going to channel my inner Colin and set as many couches on fire as I can.
Christo Eliot is a sophomore in the College of Engineering. He may be reached at email@example.com. The Tale of the Dingo at Midnight appears alternate Thursdays this semester.