A connoisseur of small and unwanted “trash,” Ian Tobits has taken the art of collecting to a new level.
“My collections are my most prized possessions,” says Tobits as he begins to describe the many items that fill the many jars that have taken up his already small Lothrop Hall dorm room.
The University of Pittsburgh junior began collecting in the summer after his freshman year.
“At the end of the spring semester, I waited patiently for my family to come and move me out, but they never did. No one from the University stopped by to check and see if the room had been emptied. Everyone forgot about me.” Over that summer, Tobits began to fill the void in his heart by taking in small items that most people would throw away. Scavenging the dumpsters, Tobits would pick through garbage bags with a fine toothed comb to find cool looking fruity pebbles, toe nail clippings, and hairs that people had found in food.
“Those items interested me the most, because I could never understand why someone would throw them away much like I was. Why did they throw me away?” Already spending most of his time alone, collecting became such a time consuming hobby that he did not have time to make connections with new people. That is when his collecting went to the next level.
“I was shocked when I realized how much time I had been spending by myself, but instead of dwelling on it, I decided to make it into a hobby. Now I collect the moments I spend alone.”
Due to the fact that Tobits has not left his room since July 18, 2014, corresponding with others via AIM, he has calculated that he has collected approximately 897,120 moments alone. “I am quite proud of this accomplishment. Most people have too many friends or loved ones to spend 623 days without seeing, smelling, or touching another human being.”
Tobits hopes that he can continue this collecting late in life, but says that what he plans on collecting may change as soon as he can figure out a way to properly harvest his tears.
By Ilya Yashin
You would’ve been pretty pleased with yourself, your present life and past decisions, if not for Better You lurking around the campus, in spaces that hold your shame and failure and regret.
“You can hide from yourself but you can’t hide from me,” Better You said from behind that C you got on your transcript out of sheer laziness. “Guess who got a 4.0 without cheating or bullshitting, and a full scholarship, and those grants and awards you totally could’ve received but didn’t give a crap about, and who read all those kickass books you only wanted to read? That’s me. It could’ve been you, but it’s me.”
While not hanging out with the cool friends you were always too busy to spend time with or with that crush you never had the guts to ask out, Better You likes to spend time in the gym you’ve always been meaning to go to and at the part-time job Better You genuinely loves, which you would’ve loved, too, but didn’t get because you never bothered to gain the prerequisite experience or to apply early.
“I’ve learned to cope with all my frustrations and anxieties so well that I feel sorry for you for being such a nervous maladjusted wreck and not even trying to learn to improve your psychological well-being,” Better You said, eating a fancy dinner you can’t afford with your crappy minimum-wage job and parents who give you no cash because you still haven’t made up with them after that fight. “And guess whose fault it is that you’re not me?”
Better You is a non-traditional student. Instead of being confined to a single body like a lame-o, Better You lives in bits and pieces all around you, in various forms of happiness, success, and fulfillment of your friends and acquaintances that you could’ve attained but didn’t.
Next time you see Better You, at least nod in acknowledgement.
“Just don’t think that you can actually become me,” Better You laughed. “If you could, you already would’ve.”
Stone, the Panther
By Leo Corman
You’ve all heard of Roc the Panther, but you probably don’t know his brother, Stone.
“Of course, it’s hard to believe we could possibly be related at this point, me a 43-year-old, unemployed loser living in my parents’ den, and Roc the handsome, successful star,” admitted Stone with a sigh. “We couldn’t be less alike.”
While Roc taking pictures with kids and giving out high-fives, Stone is watching Cartoon Network and taking bong hits. You wouldn’t think it to look at the pudgy feline now, but at one point in his life, Stone had a lot going for him.
“I had a steady job, a girlfriend, I kept away from drugs … I had my life together. My dream, though, had always been to be a mascot for Pitt, my beloved alma mater.” When there was finally an opening, Stone pounced on the opportunity, but so did his overachieving younger brother, Roc. “My older brother, Mineral, and youngest brother, Pebble, also applied, but that cute little kitten wasn’t ready for that kind of pressure, and Mineral just sounds terrible as a mascot name.”
The search came down to Roc and Stone, and they chose Roc.
“Why? What made Roc so damn special? Why was he better than me? Was it the pretentious lack of a ‘k’ in his name? I could throw a t-shirt just as far. I had a winning smile. I could clap and jump and stimulate crowd excitement through my own infectious energy just as well. I would have been a great mascot! Roc could have done anything with his life. He was always the favorite child in the Panther family, the 4.0 student, the captain of every sports team … I was just an average animal with one simple dream, and he took that from me.”
In this instance, the cat did not land on its feet. Following his rejection, Stone fell into a spiral of depression, drugs, and apathy. “My girlfriend dumped me; I lost my job; eventually, humiliatingly, I had to move back in with my parents, where I’ve been ever since”. His family tried to be supportive, but they could never understand how much being the Pitt mascot had meant to him.
“I haven’t spoken to Roc in years. I guess he’s so busy hanging out with all the cheerleaders and football players that he doesn’t have time for me anymore. I can’t blame him—I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near a sorry shell of a cat like me. So next time you’re watching a Pitt game, and you see my brother dancing around, think of me, and how much I’d give to be where he is right now. Think of dreams crushed beneath a furry paw.”
By Ossia Dwyer
A fixture of campus since 1987, Dirty Jeff has been opening students’ mind to space travel and government conspiracies at the laundromat for over 20 years. He got his start at Pitt as a student in the mathematics department.
“Is that what they told you? I wasn’t a student I was a test subject for the surfactants lab. They got rid of the monkeys and started using humans to test their lotions and potions. I led the rebellion to overcome our Fascist leaders.”
After his time at the University ended, he found his new home in a local South Oakland laundromat.
“My old buddy Gary, who was actually half alien and half wizard but used his powers for good, used to own this place. He let me tutor these asshole kids whenever I wanted and I’ve never left. These people need me to pass on the secrets of the world. The moon landing was filmed in the Consol Energy Center. The statue of Richard Caliguiri wakes up and dances when there is a full moon.”
He believes that his presence at the laundromat is what keeps the kids coming in week after week.
“People’s minds are made of hot water and my knowledge is like an instant pudding packet ready to whisk up a brain in their tiny noggin cases. Without me how would people know that aliens crawl out of iPhone chargers and into our blood streams?”
“Oh, let me guess you think that you were born with people skin. Wake up people! Our skin is manufactured in China so that the government can see what television shows we are watching. And when we die they use it to make floppy disks. People are living longer and we have less floppy disks. Coincidence or correlation?”
By Ilya Yashin
As a history and political science double-major heavily involved in local politics, Ryan Subsequen knows the value of a wide variety of opinions and points of view circulating in the free marketplace of ideas. His personal motto is summarized in a quote by Ryan Subsequen: “It is essential to progress that you consider everyone’s opinion, no matter who they are, as long as it agrees with yours.”
“It’s a crucial, integral part of who I am and who I want to become,” Subsequen said of the quote, which he described as “brilliant” and “thought-provoking.” “Many close-minded people prefer to stay in their comfortable ideological echo chambers, but that’s a dead end. History shows that we owe many great things to the people who were brave enough to listen to all kinds of opinions coming from all different kinds of people, as long as they could interpret the opinions in such a way that they could agree with them.”
Paying close attention to world politics and online discussions of important issues, Subsequen came to the conclusion that discussions, especially political ones, are often stymied and derailed when someone’s opinion is dismissed because of some aspect of their identity. He believes that this tendency stems from prejudices and is always counterproductive.
“It’s so stupid, the way people sometimes dismiss out of hand what others have to say based on who they are,” he said. “Regardless of your race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, nationality, ethnicity, political orientation, and any type of ideology you hold, as long as your opinion even remotely agrees with mine, I believe it is worth hearing and seriously considering.”
Subsequen believes that although we all agree that it’s bad to hold onto any opinion firmly and blindly, no matter what it is, it’s absurd to expect someone to change their opinion to one they disagree with. “So why bother wasting time considering it?” he said. “It’s like being a vegetarian and going to a steakhouse for lunch. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”