One DukeCard at a time

Life is weird. I've never won a single lottery, raffle or drawing. And yet, I somehow hit the jackpot when there was a .006 percent chance of winning.

Some call it karma, some call it fate and some call it the miraculous workings of some higher power.

There are different words for the mysterious ways the world works, the randomness of everyday life, how decisions are made and the paths we choose.

If there is anything that the past four years at Duke have taught me, it is to appreciate the arbitrary.

The number 352 was once a random collection of numerals to me-the year Liberius was elected Pope and the first sighting of a supernova in China.

Okay, I Wikipedia-ed that.

But now I know that the number 352 has conclusively changed my life.

In June 1996, I was 12 years old and literally in love with the written word, I arrived on East Campus, moved into Randolph 352, and got ready to spend part of my summer at Duke's Young Writer's Camp. I didn't get my first picks for the classes I wanted to take-short story, poetry-and instead found myself in the basement of Lilly Library with my randomly assigned schedule. Newspaper Class.

I wrote my first newspaper story of my entire life about an armed robbery near Fuqua School of Business, never mind that I had no clue where Fuqua was at the time. It took me at least a week to write and although I now longer have a copy, I am sure the writing and grammar would make me laugh. I didn't appreciate then that I was embarking on a path that would consume the next ten years of my life (and more than 1,000 hours of my college experience), and counting.

Regardless of whether you believe in karma, and I am not sure that I do, my experiences in Randolph 352 that summer would prove to repeatedly resurface. When I arrived on campus as a freshman in August 2002, my parents and I moved my belongings into Randolph 352, the randomly assigned freshman dorm room where I had, yet again, been randomly assigned to live (out of a possible 1,600 bed spaces on campus-a .006 percent chance).

This past July I was having lunch with one of my editors at The Charlotte Observer, where I was interning as a reporter, when she asked me if I had ever attended a summer writing program at Duke. I was a familiar face, and she had been a counselor there while in college. The next day she returned to the office with a grin: She had found her diary from that summer, and indeed I had been one of her campers.

Just as seemingly unexplainable as the significance of the number 352 is the number of times I've lost my DukeCard.

If J. Alfred Prufrock can measure out his life in coffee spoons, I can measure out mine in DukeCards. Fifteen to be exact.

No. 1, October, 2002. Returning from a late night out with friends, I mused out loud that the little crevice between the Randolph Dormitory elevator and the floor didn't seem big enough to lose anything to the gnomes of the elevator shaft. Moments later my DukeCard slipped out of my hand and miraculously escaped through the Hole That Should Not Have Been Big Enough.

And so began my long-term relationship with the staffers at the DukeCard Office.

I have lost DukeCards in the Duke Gardens (No. 2, April 2003), in the Biology Building, visiting my family in Mississippi on school breaks and in my car. Nos. 11, 12, 13 and 14 in March and April 2006 were sacrifices to the Gods of the Senior Thesis.

I certainly don't hold the record for my number of DukeCards (Chronicle editorial page editor Sarah Ball is already ahead of me, with 19 as a sophomore). And maybe I don't take the cake for the weird places I've lost my card: One senior I know found an old DukeCard while gardening, under a pile of dirt.

Some might call it chance or say it's pure coincidence. Whatever it is, I have met amazing friends, lovers and professors through the most arbitrary of means. But at the same time those friendships and relationships have become anything but arbitrary.

The majority of my lost DukeCards have disappeared in 301 Flowers, the place that has single- handedly defined my college experience more than anywhere else.

The friends I first found at The Chronicle were rather random; the long-lasting friendships we have shared since have been anything but.

Maybe it's chance, maybe it's serendipity or maybe it's just plain luck. It doesn't matter what it is, because I wouldn't have it any other way.

Emily Almas is a Trinity senior and editor of Towerview. Her college experience wouldn't have been complete without the support of her parents, Patrick, Tracy, Kelly, Karen, Claire, Sarah and everyone else who has understood that sometimes she truly has no time.


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