Wednesday, June 21, 2006

18 Again

Once upon a time I was a College Freshman. There is never a time in ones life equal to the sensation of being a college freshman. You have essentially stepped onto the launching pad of adulthood, but nobody is expecting you to act like an adult. Which is good, since you have no intention of behaving like one.

It is your first real taste of independence. Nobody is going to force you to go to class, nobody is going to tell you that a Snickers doesn’t count as dinner and that you can’t go to Denny’s at 1:00 a.m. and order the culinary genius known as Moons Over My Hammy. And nobody is going to tell you that throwing an oven and washing machine off the roof of your dorm is a foolish notion. Though you might figure that out on your own only moments afterwards.

One of the best things about college, and your freshman year, specifically, is that you find yourself surrounded by a sea of people. With very little effort, you meet literally hundreds of people. Your dorm, your classes, the people you go to church with, your friends from back home who went to the same college, their friends and people from their classes and dorms, your roommate’s friends, people you see at the same time every day on campus until you finally talk and find out you know some of the same people, and finally, the folks at Denny’s who recognize you when you walk in and have your Moons Over My Hammy all ready for you by the time you sit down in your booth and pull out your sketch plans for how to get the oven and washing machine from the basement of your dorm to the roof.

Three of my favorite people from my freshman year were Greg, Jim, and Justin. We all lived on the seventh (top) floor of our dorm and became fast friends when we realized we all had similar tastes in movies and music, as well as a proclivity for making fun of the same people on our floor. We were thick as thieves that year (note: no actual thievery took place), and kept in regular contact for a few years afterwards. Eventually we all took different paths of study, married different women, moved to different states, and fell out of touch.

A couple of years ago, thanks to this newfangled technological advancement known to you kids as the “Internet,” combined with the mid-week doldrums of the corporate world that drive the working man to waste time on the Internet rather than do any actual work, the four of us tracked each other down. Classic inside jokes were exchanged, annual Christmas cards followed, and the occasional “congratulations on your new baby/job/house” emails were sent. And then…a couple of weekends ago… it happened. A reunion.

With Jim living in California, Justin and Greg both in Utah, and myself right in the middle, the four of us decided to gather in Las Vegas. We arranged for a room at the Luxor hotel, and it served as our home base from Friday night through Sunday morning. After referring to our brochure of Nevada State Mandated Activities for Tourists, we spent the weekend eating at buffets and other Las Vegas eateries, riding on roller coasters, walking the Strip, irritably discussing the heat, and shopping but not buying anything.

But truth be told, most of our time was spent sitting around and harkening back to a different era, trying to recall as many tales of bawdiness and ribaldry as we could. And oh!, the scandalamity that was exposed! Our own little soap opera, our first year of college was. And how delicious to dredge up the details and dynamics of each antic.

Now, here’s the thing with getting together with people you were good friends with 17 years ago (when you were younger and consistently made ridiculous and oftentimes selfish decisions) and then haven’t seen much since then: There’s a question as to how much you have changed. Here are three telltale points to help you, the third-party observer, decide:

1. The Playing of “Safety.” Safety was a game played by many of us. No board, no dice, no cards. Just a fist and a strong stomach. The rules to Safety were as follows: If you were ever to “pass gas,” you were to loudly declare “Safety!” before somebody hit you. If you said “Safety” before somebody hit you, you were indeed “safe,” as it were. Meaning that nobody was allowed to hit you at that point. If your let one rip, and then somebody hit you before you said “Safety” then it was fair game – everybody playing the game could hit you over and over until you a) died, or b) touched a doorknob. Once you touched a doorknob people had to stop hitting you. (If you died, people were allowed to continue beating you, because technically you did not reach a doorknob. I didn’t make up the rules to Safety, folks, I just played as fairly as the next guy.) It was certainly a test of manliness when we were younger. But it’s been 17 years and we’ve all grown up a bit; plus we are totally out of practice, as none of us had ever successfully convinced our wives our families should play this game.

2. Quotable Movies. The five most quoted movies our freshman year in college were as follows: Three Amigos, Uncle Buck, Weird Science, Planes Trains & Automobiles, and Weekend at Bernie’s. These were also the same five movies most quoted on this particular weekend. And I have three of these movies in my own personal movie library this very moment. (Even more alarming, two of these movies feature non-Academy Award Winner, Mr. John Candy, one of them features a plot surrounding a dead man that nobody realizes is dead, and one of them is Weekend at Bernie’s.)

3. Music. Never mind what we listened to circa 1989/1990, when the four of were at lunch on Saturday, catching a few minutes of a basketball game on television, and I started singing “Coach says to get my head in the game…” and Jim, Greg, and Justin all jumped in to sing along “Wait a minute, get my head in the game!”…we knew that the mighty had fallen. While I’m glad my six year-old doesn’t know all the lyrics to the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill…I don’t know how I feel about me knowing the words to Disney’s High School Musical.

So at some point throughout the past seventeen years we had each determined on our own that public farting should not be encouraged by being turned into a game, that slapstick comedies are still funny, and that our musical libraries would have to make room for Disney soundtracks and the capricious musical talents of Raffi.

And if the Luxor is missing an oven and a washing machine, we don’t know anything about it. But they might want to check the pool…where they landed….after we threw them off the roof.