My roommate Kinsey and I had been counting the days until fall break. For the first time, we had two days off school, and we had an increasing desperation to escape from the four walls we live and work in. As the semester neared its midpoint, our work ethic declined so rapidly that it was practically a resident of the Underworld. We decided we needed to get away, and we picked Philadelphia as our destination.
I hadn’t been since high school, and this was Kinsey’s first visit. With our masks and checklist in hand, we started the drive. We ditched our playlist and listened to every Taylor Swift album ever made. It’s safe to say we were “in our feels.”
After we arrived, we decided to form our initial impressions of the city on foot. We walked around Center City, and five miles later we realized we had walked in a circle to get to a place that was merely three blocks from our starting point. We are not skilled when it comes to directions, but of course, we pretended we didn’t need Google Maps. As we walked, we noticed street after street was closed. The restaurants in the city had expanded beyond their typical capacity. Kinsey and I wandered around for a place to eat, and finally we landed on a restaurant called Charlie Was a Sinner. We thought it was fitting for the spooky season.
We faced an obstacle: a wooden platform. I stepped over it and made it to the other side on two feet, but Kinsey decided to tackle it in a different manner. Within seconds she was sitting on the other side. Her feet had betrayed her. Laughing it off, Kinsey hopped up, and we secured our table beneath the Philadelphia night sky. We ordered upscale tater tots and feasted on memories of UniMini. Our blisters were begging us to go home for the night, so we headed back but with Google Maps this time.
We went to sleep excited to explore the historical parts of the city. The next morning, we were back traipsing through the city on our funding challenge from Alpha Phi and Pi Phi, and then we surpassed our goal when we embarked on a walking tour where we met some interesting characters. I can sum up our tour with this: Benjamin Franklin was apparently a philanderer, a much older woman thought I was her granddaughter when she grabbed my hip and two young women have not learned the concept of personal space (when people continuously move away from you, there is a reason).
We loved our tour guide. He really hit everyone with the “MASK ON.” We were for it. Although we truly thought we had reached the peak of our challenges, we were wrong. We were standing in the line (socially distanced and outside) to go into Independence Hall when a group of anti-maskers appeared out of thin air. They were going to join us, and of course, I had to comment loudly.
Pretending, sort of, that they couldn’t hear me, I was talking to Kinsey — probably embarrassing her — with my commentary on their seemingly anti-mask stance. Of course, I was starting to get some glares, but I wasn’t backing down. As we went into Independence Hall, we asked if they would have to put on masks. We were promised that they would. It wasn’t a pinky swear, so I guess it wasn’t true because as we were in there, some masked up while others did the “chinstrap” and the “under the nose.”
One teenager ignored the guide’s request to put on a mask, so I took it upon myself to give him a judgmental glare every time he looked over. I’m shocked he continued to look because each time he was met with daggers. The rest of his crowd tried to back him up, but they were shut down by the other guide for speaking over her and laughing about what she had to say. She was the best person on our entire trip because she called them out for being homophobic.
Kinsey and I gave her a round of applause, and then she packed another punch at the end of her speech when she talked about the importance of learning from history. The two of us walked out inspired, and they walked out perspiring.
Kinsey and I had to cool down after that debacle, so we decided to take a walk through the beautiful University of Pennsylvania. We thought it would be a leisurely stroll, but we were fooled. About five minutes away, we realized something bad was happening. The liter of water we had guzzled was bursting at the seams. We had consumed way too much liquid before our trek, which was a lot longer than expected. On a college campus we assumed that there would obviously have to be one building open. But our assumption was wrong, and we ran from building to building and guard to guard pleading for help but were refused over and over.
Wawa was the only place that would save us, but it was half a mile away. Almost in tears, we found a loft, as in Ann Taylor Loft. I spied a hotel up the street, but Kinsey wanted to hedge our bets on the store. We barreled in 10 minutes till closing time. With desperation in our eyes, Kinsey begged for a bathroom. They pointed up the stairs, and the sign on the door said, “Not open to the public.” They could see the pain we were in. We had been saved. Penncident is something we will never forget. We also learned never to drink so much water before a long walk in the midst of a pandemic.
Just like that, our weekend was quickly coming to a close, but the drama continued. Because this is a T-swiz-centric (a.k.a. Kinsey’s boyfriend Tyler) world, Kinsey and I fretted over a cut-off thumb that was merely sliced by a box cutter while removing a SIM card. He survived his hospital visit, and Kinsey and I survived our weekend away from Hopkins. Our first trip together further proved the strength of our friendship. We continued to see that we don’t need Hopkins to tie us to one another. Kinsey is a friend I will have forever, even if she puts Taylor Swift on repeat, which is exactly what happened on our ride home.