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One of the better and more entertaining snap decisions I made before my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin was to live in one of the most sought-after student apartments in all of Madison. Situated on the twelfth floor of a relatively new apartment building one block from State Street, this apartment, that we, as Workaholics fans, dubbed “The Penthouse Penthouse” (yes, you were allowed to pee on the floor) was amazing. If you stood at the edge of our corner balcony and looked…
Left: you could see Bascom Hill, the most physically demanding campus quad in the nation…
Straight: you could see beautiful, beer-filled Lake Mendota, the site of many a ruckus Fourth of July lake day…
Right: you could see the Wisconsin state capitol building. College kids did not deserve this view. Not at all. But it’s the one we got. Many high-rise student apartments built after the 2012-2013 school year have since relegated my sophomore year apartment to its present-day “pretty good view” status, but at the time it truly didn’t get any better.
My sophomore year apartment was so much more than just a nice view, though. This glorious abode was the setting of some of the best stories I have from college, as well as some of the worst. Contrary to what the title of this column might have you believe, the following tale actually falls into the former category.
Quick aside: if you’re only here to hear about my roommate falling 120 feet to his death, I’m going to disappoint you now and also save you some time: he is still alive and kicking. His plunge from the 12th floor balcony ended up being a relatively short fall, for reasons that will be revealed if you decide to keep on reading. And, if you enjoy college stories that don’t necessarily come to a climax (because life isn’t a movie script), but are so absurd that you couldn’t make them up, I recommend that you do.
It all started when one of my friends from my freshman year floor, Craig (not his real name, just like the rest of the names in this piece), made a snap decision of his own: to sign a lease for an apartment he couldn’t afford with Phil, some random kid he knew from his math class. Craig’s reasoning was relatively airtight from a college kid standpoint: this cool apartment was going to help him smang puss. When you’re a freshman, the thought that next year you can point up to the sky after a party and ask a girl “Wanna take shots back at my place?” can make you do crazy things, namely make yourself legally bound to paying $3,400 for a four-bedroom apartment that, at the time of signing, is only split between two people. Needless to say, Craig went on a mad scramble to find roommates. He pulled me in, Phil pulled two kids in, and the apartment was filled out.
Meet my roommates, of whom I am very fond, but whom I will proceed to rag on for the remainder of this piece because I know they all will read this:
Craig – Craig and I had a beautiful little progression, going from dorm floormates, to roommates (we were the only two in the apartment who shared a room), to fraternity brothers — I convinced him to rush my fraternity his sophomore year fall, our first semester living together in the apartment. I know what you’re thinking, and no, living with a pledge isn’t as cool as it sounds. You try fucking with a guy when there’s a 98% chance he sticks his nut sack in your face while you’re sleeping in retaliation. You might think that’s an irrational fear, but, seeing as our senior slideshow would later include a photo of Craig tea bagging one of his younger pledge brothers, I think I made the right call. To make matters more peculiar, I was actually his pledge educator that semester, too. Needless to say that while I didn’t mess with him too much, he had a pretty difficult time trying to weasel his way out of his pledge duties.
To give you an idea of Craig as a person, he won the “Most Changed” superlative on our dorm floor, while also coming in second place for “Least Changed.” True story. Does that not, in fact, give you an accurate gauge on my boy? Good — it wasn’t supposed to, because, in not doing so, it does so. Dude was, and still is, impossible to read, and it’s our favorite thing about him. Freshman year he was a quiet little GDI actuarial sciences major, and junior year he won our chapter’s prestigious “Drunkest Brother” award. He even has a signature passout position that he assumes each time he blacks out.
Kid’s a wild card, but not as big a wild card as…
Big Al – A member of another fraternity and a true, card-carrying wild card. Whereas Craig’s impossible-to-read nature springs from his natural progression from innocent boy to fratlord, Big Al’s came at you outta nowhere. Al was actually on full scholarship to the university, a fact that would usually slip my mind each and every time I heard a new, absurd story about him. It’s tough to remember that your roommate is considered by the state to be academically spectacular when he comes home in a Boy Scout uniform and tells you that he just spit in a stranger’s face after they kicked him out of their Halloween party, or when he comes home and passes out while mysteriously covered in house paint.
Mark – The lone geed in the apartment and one of the nicest dudes you’ll ever meet… until a game of beer pong doesn’t go his way. You see, Mark was in a long distance relationship the entirety of the time we lived together, which caused him immense sexual frustration that would manifest itself into explosive anger when set off by any number of small triggers. Seeing as we had a beer pong table set up in our apartment 24/7, and would often play pong even when we weren’t drinking, beer pong losses/bad bounces/a little bit of water splashing out of the cup and onto his quarter zip, etc. were the usual minor life annoyances that would set Mark off. Dude would go absolutely bananas, too. Even in his rage, though, he kept his humanity about him. Once he got pissed at me for whatever reason and threatened to grab me and toss me into our oven. He then remembered that I am, in fact, half Jewish, and began apologizing profusely. Like I said — nice dude.
Phil – Big Al’s pledge brother. There is so much to say about Phil, but almost all of it will come out in the story, because he is my roommate who fell off of our 12th floor balcony. So let’s get into it.
On September 7, 2012, my roommates and I decided to throw a party to celebrate the first Friday of the school year. After being assured by our apartment complex when we signed the lease that they were the “chill” apartment that had private security come and tell you to quiet down instead of sic-ing the cops on you, we figured we had the capability to go big with this party. So we made a Facebook event for it.
Therein lay our first problem. None of us had any idea how effective Facebook would actually be at bringing people to our party, so we decided to invite too many people rather than too little. After a heated argument where we discussed what we should name the event and what we would put in the description section, we settled on the following.
If nothing else, it gets right to the point. Maybe we thought it would demonstrate to the ladies that we were all straight shooters? Who knows. All I do know is that word spread. Fast. Why? Because of a crucial factor that we had not accounted for: the fact that almost everybody we invited was a sophomore.
College sophomores are the worst group of people to invite too many of to a party because of one reason, and one reason only: most will accept your invitation. Having graduated from dorm drinking and with rush hindering any organized Greek events, college sophomores use the beginning of sophomore year to flex their social nuts by using their meager pre-existing connections to find parties. A lot of times, the pickings can end up being singular, forcing the sophomore to attach itself to its only option — as they all did on that fateful night. Most of those 59 people who said they were coming? They did. And they brought friends. Come eleven or so, the party began.
Also come eleven or so, a mystical sight did the entire party play witness to. Remember Big Al, the wild card? Well, he pulled arguably his biggest wild card move ever that night. Essentially before the party even really got going, Big Al had walked into his room, locked his door, and passed out with the lights on. The best part? His window was right next to the balcony, and his fully-dressed passed-out self (he was planning on attending the party, after all) was visible to the entire party all night long. Luckily, by the grace of God, a photo exists.
Such a wild card move.
Come 12:30, our not-very-big apartment was filled to the brim with around 70 guests, far surpassing what I assume the recommended limit would have been, if one were to have existed. It ended up being so crowded that we had to physically turn friends away at the front door, a responsibility that we relinquished to my 6’9″ pledge brother, who is appropriately nicknamed Reptar.
I don’t remember much of the actual party after naming Reptar ad hoc doorman, but I did manage to somehow save one vivid memory of the commotion. I’m not sure if I browned in to it or if it’s just the only sequence that was memorable enough to stick with me, but I remember looking over at my living room, where guys and girls were dancing on our couches and cutting a rug in front of our tv (not literally, thankfully, or we would’ve gotten even less of our security deposit back) and thinking to myself “this is the craziest party ever.”
And it was. The party was nuts. The next day we had all these mysterious blue streaks on the wall above our couch that perplexed the hell out of us until we realized they were from the girls standing on the couches rubbing their assjeans on our wall as they danced. Yes, girls were literally grinding the blue off of their jeans at the Party in the Penthouse. That night will always stick with me as the wildest non-fraternity party I’ve ever been to.
Then, as typically follows the crazy party, the impending consequences showed up and brought me back down to reality.
And they showed up in the form of cops.
Reptar, a dedicated bouncer who would usually never leave his post, walked over to me and gave me the bad news. Pandemonium ensued. Sheer, unadulterated pandemonium.
The only way I can really describe the sheer panic of that moment is that everybody ran everywhere. People ran into bedrooms, bathrooms, closets… Pretty much anywhere out of sight of the front door. They were almost all sophomores, after all, and, while they were all chasing degrees in their respective majors, none of them were seeking a minor in possession.
So here my roommates and I are, sitting ducks in a pond filled with Penthouse Penthouse pee and illegally-obtained alcohol, with our fate in our own quivering hands. Who was going to man up, answer the door, and get the ticket that we were almost assuredly about to receive? Surely five college roommates could use due process in a crisis situation to come to an agreed-upon consensus, yes? The answer, not surprisingly, is no. We ended up, by default, using the process of elimination, like mature, decision-making adults. And here’s how it ended up.
Big Al has been asleep in his locked room for the past three hours. Plus, given his proclivity for hocking loogs at people that attempt to ruin his fun, we’re just gonna let him sit this one out.
I went into my room to look for Craig, who I hadn’t seen in a hot minute, only to find him sitting on his bed puking into a trash can. I figured he might be in enough of a drunken trance to where I could convince him that there was a hot chick at the door who requested his presence so she could bang him, and I heavily weighed that option. Considering he was still a rushee at the time, though, I figured I’d let him off the hook — an opportunity I may not have afforded him had this happened a few weeks down the line. Also, there was the whole nut sack thing.
Two down, three to go.
I went out to the balcony to ask Phil what he wanted to do when something amazing happened. Remember nice guy Mark? People had began filing out of our apartment at this point, and, while they did so, Mark walked up to the cops to bite the bullet.
“Do you live here?” they asked him.
And that’s when Mark saw his out. Kid hadn’t nutted in at least two and a half fortnights at this point, and he wasn’t about to be triggered now.
“Nope,” he said, before shooting by them and making a beeline for the elevator.
It’s down to just Phil and I now. Two startled men standing on our 12th floor balcony, the bow of the metaphorical sinking ship that is our apartment.
“Well, what are we gonna do?” I asked Phil.
I’ll never forget that smile. To call it a shit-eating grin would be a felonious understatement, because this was a smirk capable of guzzling down more dung than a coprophiliac starring in a shot-for-shot remake of 2 girls 1 cup.
Without saying a word, and with Big Al’s shut eyes watching him through the window, Phil swung his legs over our balcony railing, and positioned himself on the other side as he prepared to swing down to the 11th floor balcony. I decided, in a drunken bout of idiocy, to follow in Phil’s footsteps.
“If nobody’s here in the apartment, we can’t get in trouble!” was a legitimate thought that I had, and acted on, as I, too, swung my leg over the railing. I knew right away that the maneuvers this drop required tip-toed the boundaries of my athleticism, though, and ended up deciding against it.
So there I was. I’m all alone now, having just watched my last able comrade decide that he would rather risk falling from one of the highest points in Madison than go talk to the police with me. Thanks, Phil.
While the 11th floor balcony stuck out six feet or so, and Phil wasn’t in any supreme danger unless he really fucked up his descent, you’ve gotta think about the worst case scenario here, of him falling off the building… and how it might not actually be that bad. For me, that is. I mean, I love the guy, but if the rumors are true about a roommate dying lending you all sorts of sweet perks, it might have been very beneficial for me for him to have perished. A buddy to watch movies and dick around with, or a semester of effortless straight As… Don’t ask me to choose between the two, because odds are neither of us will like my answer.
I walked back inside as Phil stood on our balcony’s outside ledge, like a Madison version of Bruce Wayne.
Defeated, I walked over to the front door. “How’s it going?” I said to the officers. Long story frat, this happened.
I’m not sure how the cops mistook my pudgy, 5’10.75″ frame for being a sturdy 6’6″, but I don’t hate them for it.
Going to bed that night was one of the more miserable experiences from my college days. Getting a ticket for $429 is never a fun way to end the night, unless it’s for something way cooler than a noise complaint ordinance violation. I might have even cried, had I not had the hilarious presence of Craig, in his classic passout position, sleeping in the bed next to mine.
What about Phil, though? What happened to Phil?
Well, he did not not make it out unharmed, as I later found out.
Phil’s plan all along was to lower himself down to the 11th floor balcony by working his way down the outside of our railing before dropping. Phil is a little over six feet tall, which would cut the drop from about around 10 feet to a much more manageable 4ish feet.
When it comes to drunk people, though, never underestimate the power of a four-foot drop. Phil reached down for the ledge, lost his grip, and crashed down to the balcony below.
He instantly knew something was wrong with his arm, but his primary objective at this point was dealing with our downstairs neighbors, who had just witnessed a man fall from the heavens onto their balcony. While I had a friend that lived in the apartment below ours, we weren’t on great terms with that particular group of dudes as a whole, as beer cans and other garbage from our balcony would periodically make its way down to theirs. This led to epic, heated games of beer can tennis between our two balconies. They’d throw a beer can that fell from our balcony back up to our deck, more would somehow make their way back down later on, and so on. Nothing said “Sunday morning” like the “clunk! clunk!” of last night’s beer cans bouncing off our balcony door when it was their serve.
According to Phil’s testimony, he dealt with the situation maturely: by walking in from the balcony, gifting them a polite salutation, and walking out the front door. Classic Phil.
What ended up being wrong with Phil’s arm? Oh, just your classic broken wrist, with a hospital bill coming in at a few hundred bucks.
As far as the ticket goes, we decided to divide it up evenly. Mark actually still owes me $40, but I’m not too beat up about it. After all — why pay the full price for the ticket when you don’t even live there?
Furthermore, since the ticket I got was for an ordinance violation, it stayed off my record.
So, if you’re keeping track at home, here’s how everybody came out.
Big Al: -$85
Phil: -$300ish and a broken wrist
I didn’t believe in karma before this incident, but I sure as hell did after it — and I let Phil know that when I signed his cast.
There you have it. That’s the story of the time my sophomore year roommate fell off our 12th floor balcony. The very same roommates and I would later go on to be collectively sued for $69,000. But, alas, that’s a story for another time.
Man, we had some fun..