Good Saturday Folks. Welcome back to the Saturday Special. I’m a little bit ashamed to talk about this but what the hell, it was over 20 years ago and regardless of what I think of it now, it’s part of who I am.
The last few weekends, I’ve recounted my summer of 1982 which was spent in California. One of the good things that came from that experience for me was I decided that I’d better figure out a way to get myself educated beyond High School. I think I’ve mentioned before that I never had any intention of attending college but that all changed while I was out west. Mostly because I decided I didn’t want to be stuck without options. My first ‘paying’ job ever was at 15 as a dishwasher in a local restaurant and that 2 months was the only time in my life I’ve ever done that. I’m not saying this to belittle anyone who does that job, somebody has to. However, I decided that if I didn’t wise up and do something for the ‘future’, that’s exactly what I may have ended up with. This was my feeling in 1982. Kind of a joke when I was growing up was there are a lot of PhD’s pumping gas. That’s when people could pull into a gas station and someone else pumped the gas, cleaned the windows, and if you wanted, checked the oil (and some fiddled with something to ensure your car would break about half a mile down the road). Of course what that meant was an advanced education was no guarantee of success. Most of my teen life, the folks tried to drill it into me that I could make money one of two ways – With my back or with my brain. When we returned from California, it was nearly October and too late to start anything that fall. So in the winter semester 1983, I began in the Associates Electronics program at a local community college. My HS grades weren’t nearly good enough to get into a University so CommCol it was. Remember, I never had any intention of going to begin with. The next couple years were spent learning to trace electrons through various electrical components. It was a basics program that would prepare one to either sit at a repair bench in some shop or perhaps be a foot in with an apprentice program elsewhere. The other option was to combine that with another two years at University in what is called a 2+2 Engineering program.
I finished the program and set out to find a job with my new degree. Several months passed, then a year, and finally two years. There came a point where I stopped looking all together, rather content I guess you could say to remain living at home. One day my father said something to me after a discussion, ‘get a job, go to school, or get out’. Those were my options. I figured I already had a job, working for him but that wasn’t quite good enough in his eyes. It wasn’t doing anything to advance his goal of pushing me out the door. There was no way, in my mind, I was prepared to move out so, the next day I was at the university picking up college applications and I applied to a couple of them just in case. Both accepted me without condition into their programs. I chose the one I did because it was a science degree rather than a liberal arts one. BS vs BA. I started that fall and did quite well in the first semester. Studiously completing all assignments and I felt I was really on my way. I haven’t always been the crispest cracker in the box though. During that semester I also pledged a fraternity. I’m not going to say that was a bad idea, it could have been worse and certainly could have been better. By most standards I was a little old to be doing such a thing but I wasn’t the oldest to ever pledge that fraternity. It was an engineering fraternity and wasn’t considered a social one. Just like everything else, belonging to this organization is exactly what you make of it. The Greek system on campus wasn’t very large, I think there were only 6 or 7 such on the entire campus. Due to the location, Sororities were not allowed to have ‘houses’. This was a commuter school anyway. No dorms or things of that nature. The fraternities however did have houses or rather some of them did. Our fraternity was open both to men and women but during my time there, no women ever made it past the membership vote. There were 6 total in my pledge class and the membership did try to promote brotherhood and academic excellence. There were certain requirements to be maintained to obtain membership. This is a lifetime membership sort of thing and before they would accept anyone, a prospective member (pledge) had to pass muster with the entire membership. It only took one to say no and that was it. One of my pledge class got blackballed and another quit to join the Navy. The other 4 of us made it and were initiated.
Now, growing up, I wasn’t much of a social party animal. I rarely went to parties and in fact, didn’t know most of them were occurring. Most of these parties were beer and potheads anyway so I didn’t much care. I was never into either growing up. I dabbled here and there but it never took with me. I couldn’t really tell you why but I think when it all boiled down, it cost money to ‘party’ like that and I was simply too cheap to pay for it. What money I did have as a teen went into other things. Some of which, I still have to this day. Long after a buzz would have died off of course and long after I would have expelled whatever beer I drank. Once I was of age however, and had an excuse, the beer flowed freely through me. I was the partying pledge and I really couldn’t say what flipped the switch in me. I didn’t let it affect my grades though, yet.
The membership at the time was probably a cross between Ferris Beuler’s Day Off, Revenge of the Nerds, and Animal House. There were people there I could equate with each of the characters and some tried to live up to it, let me tell you. There were what seemed like lifelong students there and there were some who were there to get their degrees and move on. There were some there just occupying space as well. There was one guy who had nearly 300 credits because he kept switching majors. It was only a requirement that pledges be engineering majors, but that didn’t mean they had to stay with that, many didn’t. For the record, at the time, it took 190 credits to graduate. The guy with 300 never did, he just found a job that he was satisfied with and stuck to that. There was another who actually faked his graduation for his family just so he could move on.
Anyway, soon after I was initiated, things began to change with me. I barely squeaked out of my second semester with passing grades. The party became more important than the school. Hanging out with friends in the student center became more important than going to classes. Classes I had paid for by the way. I wasn’t book stupid, just plain stupid at the time I guess you could say. This sort of behavior continued through the next year. 2+2. 2 years at University, I should have been out of there. Well, thanks to my idiocy, it took me nearly another 2 additional years to complete the program. Real Smart, eh? Real dumb. I was never as bad as these guys But…
You could say I literally pissed away a full year and a half of college time. Academically, it was a waste. Socially, it was loads of fun. There were parties, road trips, competitions with the other houses on campus, that sort of thing. I don’t know, I enjoyed it, I think. It was fun until the Probation letter hit home. That’s when the folks said I had one semester to get my shit together or they weren’t paying another nickel. Who could blame them? I certainly couldn’t. So that’s what I did. Actual partying was saved for parties which, we only had 2 major ones per year and they were legendary on campus as well as the surrounding area. I’m talking about 400-500 people through the door (not all at once of course). Amazingly, these usually went off without too much trouble. There were enough of us ‘on guard’ to keep the crowd under control and if anyone really got out of line, he was bum rushed out the door and into the street. Shortly after I graduated, these big parties were shut down due to too much liability. I did live in the house for a little over 2 years and that was my first experience living on my own. Like most college ‘kids’ I came home after that, a whole 15 miles. I did have a job on campus that kept me going back there every day but not enough quite yet to pay for my own place. Not any place I wanted to live anyway. Once I got a real job, I moved out for the last time. However, due to the partying ways of the first couple years, it did take some time to find that ‘real’ job and it came down to who I knew as much as what I knew. So, I know there may be a few of you getting ready to send your kiddies off to school this fall. Take heed that your little angels are going to go a little wild. Some say that’s part of what college is for but remind them, even if with a 2×4, that they are there to get a degree in something other than partying.
So what sparked this? Someone was talking about wild turkey’s and I couldn’t help think about one of my partying weekends with a bottle of Wild Turkey Bourbon. It was in Syracuse NY while visiting one of our other chapters shortly after I was initiated. We were there on fraternity business but honestly I didn’t care about that, it was all about the party. What a party it was- I think.
Now of course the joke is, I can trace electrons through a transistor and even know how to direct and control them. However, I still can’t figure out what I did with that damn remote control and where the hell are my keys?
Til next time,