Five Days in Philadelphia: A Spring Break Memoir

Every week, senior lacrosse player Sam Mathai exercises his vernacular, targeting anything and anyone on campus.

Currently, I am reading Jack Kerouac’s book, “On the Road,” because I have to for class. His writing makes me want to travel, meet strangers, and have some absurd adventures in places I’m unfamiliar with. When he writes about these experiences, it seems so cool, fun, and likely to be life changing.

I will tell you, though, that after my spring break trip with the Colorado College Men’s Lacrosse team, Kerouac is most likely a dirty liar.

My team and I travelled to the greater Philadelphia area to play two teams, Vassar College and Babson College. Usually we go to Florida, which is torpid and hot, but all around harmless and fun at times. Unfortunately, someone at Vassar decided that Florida was too far and they didn’t like sunshine, so they made us go to Philly. Which would have been fine, except that Vassar then cancelled their game against us, trapping us in a Best Western in Philadelphia for five days to play one team. I mean seriously. Vassar is located in upstate New York, where they get 40 inches of snow a year, and they cancelled due to inclement weather.

After harassing the Vassar Men’s Lacrosse Twitter page until several of our accounts were blocked, we moved on. Things were looking bleak. A foot of snow was forecasted, and we immediately regretted leaving Fortnite at home because we didn’t expect to have 50 hours to kill. Between my circle of friends and I, we had a deck of cards, some leftover snacks, a dwindling morale, and per diem money, with nothing to spend it on.

The good news was that, although we weren’t actually in the city of Philadelphia, we were located across the street from one of the largest shopping malls in America. How hard is it to kill a day in a massive mall? Apparently pretty damn hard, BECAUSE THE MALL SHUT DOWN, TOO. We had a plan B, which was bowling, and we were really hoping that would pan out, because plans C through Z included a lot of daytime TV, but the bowling alley closed down too, so I watched a lot of “That ‘70s Show.”

Eventually, in a state of boredom-fueled ingenuity, we improvised. If you would have walked in the lobby of the Best Western on Wednesday of spring break, you would have found a fully functioning casino. Massive piles of chips were being guarded fervently at a makeshift poker table. I was busy berating the assigned dealer at an impromptu blackjack table five feet away, surrounded by the remains of pizza that was eaten strictly because that was another thing to do. Hopes were won and lost that day. Morale hung in the balance of the chips we were using to bet.

Eventually, we attracted a crowd. Strangers wanted to get involved in our gambling games. Was this an opportunity to make friends on the road? If this were a Kerouac novel, yes, but this was not. This was a collection of goons crazed by cabin fever and below average Italian food.

Finally, the sun came out, the snow melted, and we went outside again. We went back to practicing, eating, watching movies, and throwing things at each other to pass the time. We left Pennsylvania weighing heavier than when we arrived, with another win and no desire to travel ever again. I never did make it into that damn mall.

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