9/88 - 12/88
"Once we get out of the 80's,
the 90's are gonna make the 60's look like the 50's"
-Dennis Hopper (Flashback)
So I'm face down on the floor of a bar...oh, wait. Wrong story.
So I go away to college. I'll be totally honest with you, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't even think about bringing sheets and a blanket with me. It never occurred to me that they wouldn't supply them. I guess I thought it was going to be like a hotel for some reason. Luckily, my mom gave me towels and things to take, and saved me some embarrassment.
I moved into this room with exposed cinder-block walls, crudely painted white. There was one mirror/medicine type cabinet on either side of the room, a desk under each of them, a large sliding-door closet near the entrance, and an industrial looking, metal framed single bed next to each desk. The mattress looked older than me, and the whole room gave off the impression of a prison cell. Had there been bars on the windows and a toilet against the wall, the effect wouldn't have been more obvious.
My first thought was, "What did I get myself into? I moved out of a beautiful one-bedroom apartment with a terrace and a full view of the Manhattan skyline to live in this dump. I must be as crazy as everyone says."
My roommate, Vincent, hadn't arrived yet, but I really wasn't that anxious to meet him. I was more interested in getting myself settled, and calming down.
I claimed the left side of the room for no other reason than that was the side I was closest to when I dropped my bag. It was a first floor room, with a view of the Quad. I could see two of the other three dorms that were out there. They had named the dorms after the counties of Long Island. I was in Nassau, next to it was Suffolk, across from it was Queens, and to the right of that was Kings. I didn't know it at the time, but the dorm directly across from my window was the all-girl dorm. I guess it was named Queens when it was first built, and I can only assume that it became an all-girl dorm because no guy wanted to live in a building called "Queens."
I had some time to myself because Freshman Orientation didn't start until tomorrow, so I tried to make the best of it.
After I unpacked there was a Nassau Hall orientation session. All the residents had to get together in the lobby and tell their name, major, and where they were from. It was pretty silly, but I got to meet some of the freaks I would be living with. They laid down the rules of the building. There really weren't that many. Guests have to sign in after 8:00; don't break anything; don't kill anyone. Other than that it was pretty much free reign. It was a coed dorm, so there was no silliness about girls in guys rooms, or vice-versa. They just kept mentioning that we all have to live together, and should be considerate of our neighbors.
That night it was pretty hard to sleep. Unfamiliar place, and for all the noise coming from the hallway. I figured that the consideration would start soon, but obviously not tonight. I did wander around briefly to meet my fellow dorm-mates. They all seemed nice, but I could pretty much tell that none of them were going to ever be really close friends. If anything, I would probably have to kill them all if they didn't shut up soon and let me get to sleep.
The next day at orientation I met a guy named Skip. He and I hung around for a while, and by the second day of orientation were already good friends. We basically spent the time just making fun of the other people in our group, and trying to freak out the orientation sponsor. She didn't seem to happy with that.
That night my roommate moved in. He fancied himself a D.J., and asked to be called "D.J. Vinny Vin." He brought in with him two 1,000 watt speakers. They were so big that he had to put his bed on top of them to fit them in the room. I asked him how loud they were, and he said I would have to stand across the Quad to listen to them without going deaf. We talked for about twelve seconds before he wandered off to meet some friends of his. By the next day my room was a haven for the Puerto Rican, hip-hop, disco crowd. Not a truly bad thing, but I'm really not big into house music, so I hung out elsewhere.
The first day of classes was strange (as everyone knows). I was barely able to find my classes, even though they showed us all the buildings during orientation. I was a Criminal Justice major, so most of my classes were taught by ex-law enforcement officers; Cops, FBI, DEA, etc.
By the third day I realized how little difference there was between college classes and the high school classes I was used to. For some reason I always imagined college classes to be so different. I imagined the huge lecture halls, and professors who were incredibly knowledgeable and had written volumes on each subject. Most of my classes were smaller than my high school classes, and the professors spent the time equating whatever we were talking about in class with something they had done when they were on the force. Don't get me wrong, I love hearing cop stories, they just really didn't teach anything. We spent the entire class laughing along with his stories, and by the end of the first week I was wondering how we could ever be tested on what we had just learned.
There were some classes that were closer to my impression of real college classes. Professors that asked questions and made you think, but to be honest, I barely remember them. But I can re-tell most of the cop stories verbatim. What that says about the education system, I don't know.
By the second week I had pretty well adjusted to college life. It really wasn't that hard. The most difficult parts to get used to were the noise, and the showers. I learned quick that if you're in the shower and you hear a toilet flush, get out of the shower....fast.
D.J. Vinny Vin moved out during the second week of classes, and Skip moved in. We rearranged the room so we would have bunk beds. I claimed the bottom, mostly because I didn't feel like climbing every time I wanted to sleep. I also have this fear of falling out of them in the middle of the night.
Now Skip had a few hang-ups. One of them was his ex-girlfriend from back home in Albany. They had been high school sweethearts, and had "agreed" to break up when he went away to college. Now if anyone else told me that story, I would have thought that they had dumped the girl and then went to college to party, but I knew Skip pretty well (he was practically transparent) and knew that she had dumped him when he left. He hung pictures of this girl all over his side of the room. It was almost nauseating. My side of the room was covered in movie posters of the most gruesome horror movies ever made, and his had pictures of the girl that tossed him aside, and some Cat Stevens paraphernalia.
Skip finally had a date, and was planning on bringing the girl back to the room that night, so he asked me to be scarce. I asked if he was planning on removing the pictures of his ex from his walls, and he replied, "Why would I want to do that?"
That was the kind of guy he was. When he left for his date, I removed all the pictures and put them in his drawer before I left myself.
Skip had one picture that he loved more than any other. It was a close-up of his ex's face, and he kept it in a really nice frame on his desk.
One night while he was out wandering around, Mike, Jim and Bob (from high school) showed up. Jim had brought a pellet gun, and we were just playing around with it shooting each other in the legs.
Now Bob has the worst aim of anyone I've every met (up until then. I did meet some one a few years later that was even worst, but that's another story). We had a small target on the wall that we were shooting at, and Bob couldn't even hit the target from four feet away. So when he took aim at the framed picture of Skip's ex from about ten feet away, we figured there was no chance of him even coming close, and neither did he.
What can I say? It was a perfect shot, right between her eyes. The glass shattered in a perfect spider web, but thankfully the picture wasn't damaged. We dumped the broken glass into the trash, put the picture back in the frame, and then back on the desk. You couldn't even tell that the glass was missing.
We all placed bets on how long it would take for Skip to notice that the glass was gone. Mike bet on under five minutes, while the rest of us were betting on anything from a week to a year. Theoretically, there was no chance of him noticing a change. Even if he touched the picture, how would he immediately register that there was no glass? I probably wouldn't.
A half hour later, Skip came home. He walked in, said "Hi" to everyone, sat at his desk, looked at the picture and started screaming.
Bob apologized up and down, and we were finally able to convince him that it was an accident. Of course...we had to lie. We told him that Bob had shot at me, missed, and the shot ricocheted off the wall and hit the picture. Skip bought the story, and finally forgave us.
Skip and I decided to run for student government. We figured we would make a great ticket. Me as President of the freshman class, and he as my lackey. We made up fliers, and posted them all around campus. We harasses, cajoled, and otherwise bribed, begged and pleaded for people to vote for us. We were a cinch. There was no chance of our losing. I didn't get a chance to vote that day, as I was too busy telling everyone else to, and when they tallied the results, I lost by two votes. I was ready to strangle someone.
So, Skip became President, and I was stuck as Vice President. We were both also student Senators, and now had to attend weekly meetings to discuss things around campus. I soon became quite sick of politics. I was also glad I wasn't President. Skip was constantly running around and meeting with various people. The poor boy was going nuts.
Each class had to come up with an idea to raise funds for their group, and then present those ideas to Dean Wright. Skip was sick that day, so he asked me to tell the Dean about his idea for a freshman class slave sale. He planned to auction off freshman to basically be servants for a day.
So I meet the dean. Now, we had always called him Dean White because one of the other Senators had a speech impediment, and kept calling him that. So it became our name for him as well. I had never met the Dean, but had heard that he was a pretty nice guy.
Well, Dean Wright was black, and of course I slipped and called him Dean White about forty-seven times in the meeting. When he finally asked what the freshman were going to do to raise money, I answered, "We're going to hold a Slave Sale, Dean White."
You can guess how well that went over. He thought I was the biggest redneck, racist, card carrying member of the Klan ever to walk the face of the earth.
I still blame it all on Skip. To this day I think Skip skipped that meeting on purpose.
In Nassau Hall, we had one constant in our lives. Fire Drills.
They started during the first week of school, and originally they were mildly annoying. They would always be pulled later in the evening, and of course they made us go outside while they checked the building for a fire. We stayed out there from ten minutes to an hour or more sometimes. Soon the fire drills were a weekly event. They became almost a party. People would bring out radios, check to see which girls were coming out of which guys room, and vice versa.
We almost learned to enjoy them. Until the winter.
When you get forced out of your nice warm bed by some idiot that decided to pull a fire alarm, and then you have to wait outside in a few inches of snow, you really start to wonder how important a college education really is.
The mad alarm-puller soon stepped up his pace. By the end of the semester we were getting alarms almost daily, sometimes more than once a day. Soon you're trying to find places in your room to hide where they won't find you if they search. They fined you fifty bucks if they caught you not leaving the building during a fire alarm. I sometimes actually thought it might be worth it to just give the searcher a fifty to go away and let me sleep. The more alarms that were pulled, the longer they kept us outside. Apparently they assumed that the person that pulled the alarm was stuck out there with us. We all assumed he lived in another dorm. You tell me who's probably right.
The mad alarm-puller found some friends, and one night there was a four dorm alarm pulled. All at the same time. It was about 8:00 p.m., and there was a nice layer of snow on the ground, so we turned it into a Dorm vs Dorm snowball fight.
One night, Mike was over (and drunk) when the alarm went off. He had passed out on the floor, and we could not wake him. We tried everything. Finally, we threw a blanket over him where he lay, and put a milk-crate over where his head was and left. While outside telling everyone what we did to Mike, he came stumbling out the side door looking like the walking dead. I personally don't think we ever let him live that down.
By the time I left for Christmas break I had a pretty good hold on what was going on at school and who my friends were. It no longer seemed like a prison, more of a re-education camp. The campus didn't seem as big to me as it did when I first got there. It didn't seem as vast a place, even though I still hadn't learned every inch of it. The biggest problem to overcome was the over abundance of freedom. I couldn't tell you how many people dropped out, or were pulled out by their parents when their report cards came. They hadn't been to class, or had never done any work, or had been drunk/stoned/or worse for the entire semester. I have to admit, I did slack off myself after a while. It took a good three weeks before I started skipping classes, but I still managed to squeak by. How was I to know not to take a class that starts at 9 in the morning? I was a freshman for God's sake.
If you have any questions, E-Mail me. Spat@spat-nospam-cave.com