Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lessons from College: Cautionary Tales

I always prided myself on the various esoteric connections I made at school, and the unique individuals who in one way or another shaped my life; some were no better than cautionary tales, others were truly inspirational. 

However, for this post I'd like to recap the real deviants. For obvious reasons I have decided to protect their identities, also some details have been changed, largely due to embellishments. 

These 'gospels' provide an interesting framework of how the lessons I gleaned were largely born out of randomness (and at other people expense). 

1. Story of Small P: Permission and Forgiveness

Small P was one of those guys who everyone liked even though he was a small, scrawny kind of guy with a razor sharp wit and was a bit of a dick. 

However, he loved to have fun and had a strict intoxication and enjoyment policy.....mainly 'whatever, whenever'.  

A particular sports team was travelling to a conference game and arriving late into the night at their accommodations. Sans a coach, the Team Captains put the team to bed having autocratically decided it would be best to simply crash and get what little rest you could before the early morning festivities. 

This was for obvious reasons now a popular idea amongst the party loving players. But, the Captain had spoken and his word was final. However, a minority, led by Small P thought that this was an awful idea and took it upon himself to lead a small group of rebels out to the local bar scene. 

After 4 hours of hedonistic, drunken and hilariously irresponsible behavior (the local bar maid might have been led to believe that all the players were Lithuanian) the entire group (miraculously) safely returned to the accommodations and an irate Captain who had been calling every ones cell phones for the past 3 hours. 

It was just plain bad luck that everyone on that trip had left their cell phones behind. After a severe tongue lashing, the group feeling sorry for themselves, vented their frustration at Small P for his galvanizing them earlier. 

Small P (still startlingly drunk of his hiney) asked one question, 'Did you guys have a good time?", everyone assented that indeed, they had. He then shrugged his shoulders in the way of a modern day Aristotle,  "Some times its better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission." 

2. Story of Roger: Genius of Circumstance 

Hamilton has extremely cold weather, the winters were almost unbearable. For anyone who likes a good smoke (weed, tobacco or otherwise), the winter months are perhaps the most despicable aspect of life at Hamilton. Personally I'm convinced that Hamilton intrinsically forces people to quit smoking via the weather. 

Any how, my friend Roger and his room mate 'Roomie' lived in substance free housing, but they were avid smokers (of all things that could be smoked). Now in substance free one isn't allowed to possess any alcohol, drugs, smoke indoors, or make loud music after certain hours. 

Unfortunately for the more rule inclined residents, one in particular Crazy Suzy, Roger had an electric guitar which he played with wild abandon at a mind numbing volume.  Now Crazy Suzy was one of the super wound up substance free Priestesses, she was obsessive about maintaining the purity of her substance free domain. 

She was therefore not a natural fan of Roger and Roomie, and registered formal complaints against them on a weekly basis (conservatively est.). Though in her defense both Roger and Roomie seemed to be aiming at shattering the record for most rules broken in a single year. 

By winter, Roger was on his (5th) last chance and one cold bone crunching night both he and Roomie were prepping for finals, drinking a beer (illegal) whilst working and contemplating a smoke. Roger decided that the weather was prohibitive and Roomie agreed and turned to continue working. 5 minutes later Roomie felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around. 

Roger had wrapped up the smoke detector (illegal), stuffed a towel underneath the door and was in the process of lighting up their favourite bong (illegal) . Bemused by Rogers 'genius' they smoked and drank whilst studying for the rest of the night. The next day they both went to class (hungover) and Roomie upon returning, noticed something was very wrong. 

The door was wide open, at worst Roger would leave the door slightly cracked on his way out of the room due to the contra brand nature of their possessions, but never wide open. He then opened his email and noticed a note from his R.A that Crazy Suzy had taken pictures of their room with a covered fire detector, various bong pipes, open alcohol containers and that charges were being filed imminently. Roomie obviously panicked and waited for Roger to saunter in. 

Roger heard the news and was surprisingly relaxed about the situation, the calmed picked up up his guitar, and in the blink of an eye cut the strings and jammed his foot into the amplifier and said 'oh shit, we've had a break in'. 

After they filed counter charges against Crazy Suzy for breaking & entering, destruction of property and planting evidence, the Resident Advisor brokered a compromised where charges from both sides would be dropped. (Crazy Suzy later moved to a different floor).    

The lesson to be learnt, is that no matter who you are (or think you are) pick who you mess with, just because you have evidence doesn't mean that the other person isn't a genius of circumstance. 

3. Story of Steve: Space management

Anyone who has attended college, knows one of the most useful and hotly contested items in the dorm room is the mini-fridge. It keeps cold the booze supply and is typically full of late night sustenance food and on occasion early morning breakfast staples. 

Now Steve and his roomate 'Alex' often had difficult discussions on how to allocate the mini-fridge space. There was simply wasn't enough room for the vast amounts of pre/post party booze and the less essential things in life. 

One morning Steve woke up late and had to rush to class, he grabbed his Nalgene full of orange juice from the fridge, recounting how last night he had yelled at Alex for drinking out of it and for overloading the fridge with half empty hard alcohol bottles. Now his Nalgene bottle was full again and Steve was happy with the world (Alex was passed out snoring). 

Upon getting to class Steve took a huge swig of the juice expecting its refreshment to engulf him with energy. It tasted off. Steve assumed that Alex had used a different brand of orange juice to re-fill his Nalgene and it was simply lower quality stuff. 

Non-plussed, Steve (as was custom), drank the entire Nalgene in just a few minutes to maximize his energy boost. About 30 minutes later while in class he realized how carefree and relaxed he felt, almost like that 9 AM Econometrics was the coolest class in the world. By 9:45 he realized that he was drunk and was on the verge of puking in class. 

Then he realized what happened. Alex had emptied out the bottle of cheap vodka into the orange juice...and 'forgot' to tell Steve. (Alex later swore that it was an accident, how one could accidentally empty Vodka into a orange juice Nalgene was never explained or justified).  

Steve had consumed 1.25 litres of the most lethal Screw Driver known to man and promptly puked on the floor 20 yards from the bathroom.  

The moral of the story is that living with people involves compromise, be nice to them and they'll (largely) be nice to you. Don't piss them off or get in their grill, because they have greater access to mess with you than anyone else if your life.

4. Story of Paul: Not Mine!

I always liked red necks and red neck humor, blue collar comedy tour was one of my favourite late night shows to watch. There was a kid from the south, who I was always a bit of a fan off, but he did do some random things. 

We had gone to the Sangertown mall to grab some food and vitamins from and he recounted a recent story of a friend of his. His friend, lets call him Paul, thought of the mall as a public freak show, a homage to white trash and it was pretty common to see over weight 14-15 year old girls of the goth fashion trend pushing strollers by themselves. 

Youth pregnancies and single parent baby mommas were fairly were unfortunately pretty common in the local populace. Paul had a wicked sense of humour to say the least and saw these child moms as perfect fodder for his/our entertainment. 

Paul would walk up to to these baby carriages, block them, lean forward, inspect the baby, (sometimes prodding them) and then pronounce a sigh of relief, look at up to confused girls in question and joyously exclaim 'Not mine!.' And then promptly walk off with not a care in the world whilst high fiving every person in sight. 

If the presumed father of the baby was anywhere close by, he would stamp to the baby mama and give her a earful. The lesson being that just because someone says something, it doesn't mean its true.  

5. Story of Nate: Always keep your door Locked.

A good friend of mine used to leave his door unlocked, to make his late night bathroom jaunts easier. 

One fine Friday night, my friend Nate and his roomate went to bed early due to their early morning athletic meet the next day, Nate was half asleep when he heard the door crack open and the cheap fluorescent tube light stun the room. 

At first he thought it was his roomate and was about to turn over to the other side before he realized something was amiss. His roomate was a small scrawny kid, who was 5'5 and around 100 pounds. The person who had just stumbled into his room was at least 6 feet tall, and was conservatively anywhere between 250-300 pounds. 

Even though Nate is actually a pretty strong kid, he was scared witless, particularly as the lumbering giant approached his bed. Nate prepared himself, ready to fight for his honor with every last bit of strength emanating from his body. 

Once the giant was at his bed, he looked very confused to see Nate there, he shrugged his shoulder and then tapped ashen faced Nate on the shoulder and in the dead silence of the night said two words 'Move over.' As the giant got into bed, Nate scrambled out of his bed and jumped onto the floor as the giant, unperturbed by Nate's ferocious activity, wrapped the blanket around his torso and went to sleep. 

The kid, in his drunken stupor had mistaken Nate's room for his own, but was still charitable enough to share (what he thought was) his own bed with him. Fortunately the giant's fraternity brothers found him. After that Nate always locked his door.

 Lesson being that things are not always as they seem and even in their most intoxicated states, people have the capacity for generosity. 

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