Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"It's a Different World" = Understatement

Grab your room key and orientation kit,, Diligent Reader, it's time to go "Back To School", Rodney Dangerfield-style, yo!

I'm still amazed by how much living we packed into those intense two years while living on the 18'th floor of the Loyola Building at St. Mary's University.  When you spend two full years waking up every morning not having a clue as to what's going to happen on any given day it kinda makes life in the inevitable "real world" seem kinda mundane in comparison.

For a kid who was terrified of strangers, residence was the best shock therapy money could buy.  But almost to a fault.  It was like taking someone diagnosed with hydrophobia and acrophobia up into a helicopter and pushing them out the door into Great Slave Lake.  And they're wearing an anvil pendant.  Not a pendant celebrating the Canadian metal band "Anvil", I'm talking about a pendant with an actual real-sized anvil attached to it. 'Sho'nuff. 

Here are just a few of my recollections coupled with some sage advice gleaned from living in residence.  It's been heavily edited to spare the innocent and whatever the polar opposite of innocent might be:
  •  While being packed in like lemmings with twenty-five other dudes you quickly lose any tolerance for crap music.  To this day I still want Squeeze, Steve Miller and Vanilla Ice all dead.
  • It's my understanding that "froshing" or "hazing" new students has become a thing of the past in this era of "1 (800) SUE-4-CASH", which is a bit of a shame.  If you go through something like that with a bunch of other guys you end up feeling as if you've done a tour of Da Nang together.  In our case it wasn't so bad anyway.  It only involved wearing bedsheets, drinking blindness-inducing cheap wine and being forced to play terrible dexterity games.  There were no acts of anal/grape transportation or sheep buggery but one dude did end up dancing on top of a table in the cafeteria singing "Joy and Pain" for what it's worth. 
  • Any first-year student stupid enough to talk about "Daddy's yacht", drop a 40 ouncer of rum, habitually lick people, or throw the shoes of upperclassmen into a garbage can ran the risk of being branded with the dreaded "permafrosh" label, meaning you're status of being the scum of the earth would likely carry over into the following year.  Curiously some people who were particularly soft in the head didn't seem to care about this...
  • Have you ever watched any iteration of the "Degrassi" series?  If so, do you think the shows are kinda lame because the writer's idea of character development is just saddling every person with some sort of crippling hang-up, addiction, disease, mental disorder or psychosis?  Well, I'm here to tell you that this is actually based more on reality than you will ever know.
  • You know you've arrived as a Frosh in residence when you're civilian self is destroyed and then reborn with a nickname.  Until this occurs you are essentially a non-entity.  For the record I had three: Pretty-Boy (kinda obvious), Conan (ironic) and Serge (self-inflicted).  To this day, I still answer to Pretty-Boy.  In fact, I'm thinking of actually making it my real legal name.  Whataya think?
  • Someone with a Howie Mandel-like fear of germs would likely commit ritual seppuku within five minutes of moving into residence.  The flip side is, your immune system will become stronger than Wolverine's if you manage to survive your first year.  I remember being unable to locate our garbage can in the common room one day because it was buried under a mound of trash in the corner.  It was like a friggin' snowdrift.  Riding the elevators, it was important never to have physical contact with the elevator buttons for fear of contracting a pox that made cholera look like hay fever.  It was critical to bring a pencil along with you wherever you went since the elevator buttons could read the contact of pencil's eraser tip better than any part of a plastic stick pen.  Standard procedure then dictated that you burn the pencil. 
  • Eventually the common room morphed into a trophy room designed to house a motley assortment of ill-begotten booty procured during late-night stumblings back from downtown.  By the time Christmas exams rolled around, the place looked like the nest of some giant magpie.  It was filled with traffic cones, welcome mats, construction site signs, decaying pumpkins, newspaper vending machines and *Sweet Jesus* carpet taken from the front steps of a Buddhist temple.  Needless to say some of these people have earned themselves a lifetime of very bad karma.  You know who you are. 
  • When your hand was forced by necessity, laundry was always a tedious and expensive affair for destitute students.  The machines ran on tickets which you could purchase at the security desk for about 50 cents a pop. Some people would try to "stick it to the man" by purchasing one ticket, putting a long multi-layer strip of tape on the end, inserting it into the machine, and then pulling it back with the tape just as the washer or dryer activated.  The success rate was about 8% but on those rare times when it worked you felt like Malcolm Friggin' X.  Often you wouldn't be able to pull the ticket out in time, it would feed through and then break the machine since they were incapable of processing a  four-foot long trail of tape through it's delicate inner workings.  
  • Pets were never a good idea in residence, especially a ferret.  Barely domesticated as it is, ferrets "go native" in a residence environment within a span of about twenty minutes.  Often you'd catch a glimpse of the oft-uncaged beast running down the hallway with half of a pizza slice in it's mouth.  Then you'd wake up next morning and find the bloated creature curled up asleep in your sock drawer using a piece of crust for a pillow.  And as if pranks weren't enough to worry about, often you'd return to your unattended room only to find that the l'il jeezler has left a special "surprise" for you in the corner.  This happened so often to me that one day I got pissed off, located a stiff piece of cardboard, scraped up the "present" and then flicked it onto the owner's door.  A week later the owner gave the ferret away to our floor's long-suffering but very nurturing maid.    
  • The Bermudians that lived on the floor got a lot of mileage out of calling us Americans until we started to refer to them as "Cubans" and that kinda stopped.    
  • Trips downtown were often made between Wednesday and Saturday night inclusively (assuming you had enough scratch and your liver could take the abuse). Friday's were generally avoided since that night downtown was often rife with embarrassing, crusty, working-class older farts who were looking to blow of some steam after a long work week.  And now I'm one of those people.  How sad is that?
  • We always tried to gravitate to clubs where half our floor-mates and their friends worked.  Have you ever been standing in a lineup to get into a bar in February weather and some jack-holes just bomb by, cut the lineup and walk right in?  Well, don't knock it 'til you've tried it, pal...
  • Scientists maintain that the lowest form of life is the one-celled amoeba.  I insist that it's actually organ donors who steal tips off bars to pay for drinks.  Pardon me while I update my "Douchebag" list...
  • Knowing all the bartenders also has it's perks when twenty-thousand people are all trying to get drinks at the south end of "Happy Hour".  Being able to signal your intent from twelve people back with a simple hand gesture only to have the corresponding amount of tasty beverages waiting for you when you got up to the bar was a pretty sweet peach.  
  • Having said that, it was also wise to bounce around to as many "Happy-Hour" events that local clubs could provide.  Conversely, it was always prudent to avoid places where knives were used to settle disputes.  It's also important to keep in mind that if a club is so packed with people that they feel the need to substitute bathroom floors, sinks and garbage cans for urinals you're likely much safer at a "Great White" concert.   
  •  It's not advisable that shots are the last drinks of the evening, especially if they sound like snippets of color commentary that Joe Rogan might use during a UFC event . ("Yeah, could I get a 'T.K.O.', a 'Brain Hemorrhage' a 'Sh** Disturber' and a 'Rape Choke'?  Thanks!")   And, for the record, three "Snakebites" in a row is never advisable.    
  • If a cop car pulls over to the side of the road and and asks where you're going with two chairs stolen from a frat house party make sure that when you tell them "St. Mary's University" you're actually going in the right direction.  It wasn't me, by the way.  I'll be saying that a lot, so get used to it.
  • Which reminds me, a friend of mind considered the drunk tank to be "a great place to meet colorful characters".  That is, until they started to fine him $50.00 after his third trip in.   
  • Try to avoid going downtown with what I call "trouble magnets".  Especially insidious are those friends of yours that are all sweetness and light and then turn into Kiefer Sutherland just as soon as they've had a few.  One dude we'd go out with had a nasty predilection for walking on the tops of parked cars instead of using the sidewalk.  Just out of the blue.  When sober, he was the meekest, nicest guy on the planet.  "Hey, Jimbo!  Remember last night when you stuck your entire arm up that elephant's a**?  No?  Ooookay, then."
  •  After all the bars have shut down, buy a slice at Pizza Corner, find a good seat along the wall and watch the fights begin.  Bonus points if someone gets put the through "King of Donair's" plate glass window.  Remember: no wagering!   
  • Stick around when someone invariably makes the boast: "Pfffft!  I don't know what the big deal is with tequila!"  Check back in a few hours to gloat when you find them face down on the bathroom floor in a puddle of their own filth.
  • Remember: cheap food is the best food.  At the start of the year it's imperative that you pick the most inexpensive meal plan possible.  You will run out of points, but at the end of the year, students with excess points will start dumping them at half-value.  Cha-CHING!   
  • The cafeteria's meals were often made by people who couldn't successfully get into a can of "Spaghetti-O's" let alone make a fresh, tasty, nutritious meal.  There's a reason why "deep-fried vegetables" sounds like an oxymoron, moron!  Pub food, takeout and frozen dinners purchased at the in-house "Mini Mart" (which you can heat up to a vaguely edible state with your illegal but ever-so-handy in-room hot pot or toaster oven) will be indispensable.  Expect a revolving diet of clubhouse sandwiches, chicken fingers, wings, burgers, fries, Kraft Dinner, Mr. Noodles, steaks, pizza and donairs.  Actually, if not for the "Midtown Tavern" I likely would have starved to death in my first year.   
  • In the evenings the cafeteria would convert into the "Coffee House" and start to serve the aforementioned pub grub instead of aborted attempts at liver and onions.  We went to the "Coffee House" pretty much every night to stay alive but not once did I actually see someone get coffee.  Weird...
  • Take advantage of Spring Breaks by road-tripping to exotic locations like Bangor, Maine (?) and St. John's, Newfoundland (!?!).  Amuse yourselves and other drivers you pass on the highway by wearing matching Viking helmets and beating each other with foam-covered baseball bats.  Try not to cause anyone to drive off the road as they gawk at you.  
  • Drive off-campus students completely bat-s#!^ insane with jealousy by going to class in January wearing flip-flops, a thong and a tank top.
  • "You say we're making too much noise for you to study in your room?  Poor muffin!  The f#@%*&^ 'Hilton's' that way, pal!"
  • The cockroaches in the basement level of Loyola never found a way out of there, thank f#@&.  Although they were admittedly pretty teeny, if I'd ever seen one in my room I would have committed homicide, genocide and suicide in that order.  
  • At the start of the year you'd "interview" to be partnered with a sister floor.  Although many people will try and tell you that this is done primarily to "bolster cross-gender harmony", the cynic in me says that it was just an elaborate icebreaker to expedite an inevitable spate of disastrous hook-ups that created toxic levels of enmity.  As a side note: I'm alarmed that girls can actually be impressed with a cheesy a capella version of the super-creepy tune "Every Breath You Take" by The Police.  Gals, read those lyrics!  That tune is like a warm-up song for crazed stalkers.  "The Police" indeed...
  • If you wanted to be popular with the ladies, you mustn't decorate your dorm room with posters of hot chicks, cars and/or hockey players.  If it's attention from the ladies ye be seekin', than make sure you don't have a television in your room, locate the nearest store that sells "Pier 1"-style import stuff and buy up as many incense holders, candles, Buddha statues, tribal face masks, fabric throws, native tapestries, bells, gongs and other crap you can afford.  This will make you appear exotic and worldly even when you say pervy stuff like "Hey, baby, wanna see my blowgun?"  Trust me when I tell you this, because I did the former and got nowhere while someone I lived with on the floor did the latter to considerably more impressive effect.  
  • On the rare occasion that a floor-mate has actually procured real, live female company it's perfectly acceptable to set up a sound system just outside his door to blast the following tune as loud as possible in an impromptu serenade: 

  • If you actually manage to pick up a girl and your room is on the corner of the building, word to the wise: Close your friggin' drapes. 
  • Single moms in the family section of Loyola often got kinda...lonely.  We'll leave it at that.  
  • If this doesn't work you can just drunk-dial ex-girlfriends and chain smoke while playing power ballads in the background like this:  Good times!  
  • Regardless of how skilled a debater you are, you can't procure the services of a hooker with a meal card.  IT WASN'T ME, I SWEAR!
  • Try and visit the worst strip club on the planet at least once on the occasion of a now-legal buddy's birthday.  Try to find a club where the "girls" all appear to have adenoids and sport pronounced bullet wounds covered with patches while creepy Japanese businessmen in wheelchairs lurking close to the stage survive the "thrills" by taking periodic hits from an oxygen tank, Frank Booth-style.  Um, on second thought, just skip this one...    
  • "So, you say you don't like to play cards, huh?  Shut up, sit the f#@& down and deal..."
  • Playing Sega Genesis NHL 92 for four hours a day in lieu of attending classes or studying is a perfectly acceptable way to spend time.
  • It's also perfectly acceptable to make an amateur horror film with rented video equipment, especially  during final exam week.   
  • Lighting farts is NOT acceptable and can often result in third degree burns to regions of the body where burns aught not to be.  And, no, this was also not me! 
  • If you insist on practicing karate in your room don't expect to get your damage deposit back.
  • The same goes for wrestling.        
  • Speaking of wrestling, why not set up a wrestling league to pass the time?  If you're too scared to actually wrestle (as well you should be) you can always become the federation commissionaire and preside over matches between such legendary grapplers as "The White Shadow", "The BBC" (Billionaire Boys Club), "The Insane Worrier", "The Islander" and my own personal favorite, "C. Bopper Tomahawk."  Invite your sister floor over to alternately impress them and/or prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're all "Coo-Coo for Cocoa-Puffs".  Let me tell ya, you haven't lived until you've been power-slammed on a residence bed (and not in a good way).             
And that's just a small sampling of what I can remember that's also remotely acceptable for discussion during the "Family Hour".  Good times...

We only spent two years on campus because we couldn't cope with the next generation of frosh that came in. Our behavior was childish to be sure, but also child-like in it's relative innocence.  Some of the new guys moving onto the floor were really destructive to the fraternal atmosphere he'd fostered so carefully so we eventually decided to move off campus.  The disparity in maturity levels still amazes me even with just a few years of age difference. 

Because of (or in spite of) what you just read, I feel bad for people that go to university but don't choose to live in residence.  Every single day I'd witness something that challenged my faith in the human race and not two seconds later, I'd see something that reconfirmed it.  To say that it was it was "A Different World" was indeed an understatement.  Although there was considerable strife at times, there was rarely a dull moment.

It was the most exciting and surreal time of my life and in some crazy way, I miss it terribly.

EPIC:  The sanitized version of my beloved home for two years...

FAIL:  Mercifully it was never quite this crazy, but close...

No comments: