I ignored the gin rummy knock and felt homicidal when I read the formal birthday wishes Spencer Mercer slid under my door. I would either have to kill Spencer for being my changeling in pathos, or go mad. At dinner I ate three pieces of cake, as usual, but then, around nine, when I heard a knot of hall mates gather cross-legged outside their doors, instead of staring into a future of solitary intellectual overcompensation, I marched out and entertained the troops until they laughed. And after they laughed, I charmed them into asking me questions, then I got them to talk about themselves, and made smart-ass quips: I sang jingles, jogged their memories about defunct game shows, crappy hit songs of yesteryear, Saturday cartoons, double-play combinations, asked them what classes they were taking, talked in funny voices, overdid my drawl for humorous effect, practiced my golf swing offhandedly, talked smut hellbent for slick, asked out loud for drugs and booze, swapped S.A.T. scores, tap-danced to the window at the end of the hall and made them follow me, for I was ready to serenade some hapless coed with the theme song from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," I don't know what all else I did but I did it for two and a half hours. I only wished I could have spirited them asleep in the hallway so I could watch over them and make sure the cement dried among us all.