This last weekend, my fraternity and I spent the day directing traffic at Spring Insight, the annual event engineered by UCSB’s Office of Admissions and facilitated by hundreds of volunteers. For as many volunteers as we had, though, there was a seemingly endless stream of parents, prospects and families pouring onto campus, looking for Campbell Hall.

Some highlights from the event include the following:

• When a tall, droll, bearded dad asked me if we were qualified to answer silly questions. I told him that I am only qualified to answer silly questions, but I was proven wrong when his question proved too strange to register.

• When an older couple asked for Givertz and actually did want to find Givertz (not Girvetz).

• When a rogue faction of volunteers made it policy to refer to Campbell Hall only as “the pumpkin,” so that incoming freshman will assume it’s an actual term.

But overall, it’s one of the best community service experiences I’ve ever had. I’m a devotee of people-watching, a euphemistic term that refers to the act of sardonically observing strangers and imagining the details of their lives and characters. Not that I’m particularly proud, but for the sake of honesty I will say that it is one of my favorite things to do. Spring Insight is open season.

UCSB has a very specific culture most days of the year, but on one magic Saturday every spring we are flooded with all cultures and kinds, and the people-watching is by far the most interesting.

For example, on Saturday I saw a full family — father, mother, son and daughter — all dressed in ripped jeans. Why? I don’t know. But it is one of many moments that Spring Insight affords, moments in which you can see something that you’ve never seen before.

More interesting, maybe, was the parade of exotic accents coming one after another in the crowd — from Indian, English, Turkish, Romanian, Iranian, Cambodian, Mexican, Russian, to Georgian and beyond. I left feeling confident that I could drift into some weird hybrid of the many languages lingering in my ears and thoroughly confuse everyone.

Most surprising, I suppose, was the case of the misplaced bowtie. One tall and lanky prospective freshman was repeatedly seen wearing a bowtie around his wrist instead of around his neck. Why he felt that more traditional wrist-wear (a watch, let’s say) was inappropriate for this occasion is unclear.

Of course, there were countless other incidents of note, but this a forum for only fractions. If you want the full spectacle, volunteer for Spring Insight (which I highly recommend). To try and accurately express the whole thing in words is naive, as any such effort would likely produce something like James Joyce] trying to induce in printed words the effect of performed music.

Now, I don’t exactly have an opinion about Spring Insight. The closest I come is a sort of uneasy feeling about myself snidely making earnest strangers into objects of fascination. I hope that my fans will allow me this temporary detour into the documentary and objective.

Or, allow me to opine merely that some days are not for opinions. Sometimes things are so interesting as to drown out any and all commentary. I am firmly and resolutely convinced that the world is riveting when we pull ourselves out of the human race and simply observe it.

Spring Insight is a day when this is obvious, and so freshly removed from the experience I would like to take a week off from spouting off. Instead, I’ll become a reservoir of accounts and descriptions. Descriptions available for access in future debates. Descriptions which can be, anyway, opinions in their own right.

Ben Moss wears his stunna’ shades each year during Spring Insight. So he can people watch, of course.


This article appeared online only at on Friday, April 19, 2013.