Thursday, October 15, 2009

Always the maven

Wow, we're halfway through October. As I rode into town this morning on Bus 54 (always a good time), I spotted a couple of student-ish types in UW sweatshirts, and realized that they are now fully immersed in their second week of fall quarter at my alma mater, the good old You of Doubleyou. And once again, the shallow pond reflected.
28 years ago this month, my dad drove me into Seattle, thereby finally emptying his nest completely. He dropped me off at McMahon Hall, a behemoth of a structure, reminiscent of gray, multi-storied Soviet utilitarian high rises. In other words, warm and inviting.
Make no mistake—I had planned for this day. I bought a shiny, new pair of "Big Macs," which were basically the lower half of a pair of overalls, at the Auburn JC Penney. Those pants were a fashion staple in South King County, and for all I knew, the rest of the western world. I slipped on my tight-ish, Auburn High Jazz Ensemble t-shirt, and felt ready for the next level. Little did I know, however, that two worlds were about to collide.
As I entered my "cluster," which was a group of four rooms that shared a common living area, most of my cluster mates already had ensconced themselves. The entire suite of rooms was occupied by UW Husky swimmers—large and lanky with stiff, neon hair. They all wore the same outfits, which were Levi's and polo shirts. "You guys look really stupid," I didn't say.
The largest dude was my roommate, Matt. Upon entering our room, I noticed that he had filled up his book shelf and part of mine with canned goods, mostly ravioli and Spaghetti-O's. I remember thinking, "Cool. This guy dresses like a dork, but he can eat Spaghetti O's anytime he wants."
I staked out an area around my desk to display some select and treasured items: a picture of my girlfriend, who was a freshman at the University of Oregon (and about whom, Matt stated, "She's cute, but I doubt it will last."), my boom box and a poster of Rush (the band, not the drug-addled gas bag).
I knew none of these guys, but they all came in to introduce themselves, and they ended up being really nice. They let me into their world after we had gotten to know each other for a few weeks, and it was refreshing how comfortable they felt blindfolding me, duct-taping me to a chair, stuffing me into the elevator and hitting the buttons for all twelve floors.
But back to day one. The oldest swimmer, Scott, asked me if I wanted to go to a swimmer's party with the rest of them. Sure, why not? I've got nothing but time. Before I knew it, I was wedged in the back of Scott's Lincoln Continental, going to who-knows-where with who-knows-whom. We pulled up to an apartment building and walked into a unit filled with college people, all wearing Levi's and polo shirts. "Geez, more dorks,"  I thought. Still rocking my jazz band shirt and Big Macs, I stood in the corner, drinking from a red, plastic cup. A kindly co-ed walked up to me and said, "Hi. So you're from Auburn?"
"Yeah. How'd you know?"
"Uh, it says so on your shirt."
"Oh, uh, yeah."
"Cool." Then she walked away.
I didn't talk to anyone else the entire evening.
A couple of days later, school began, and I finally realized that the entire campus was filled with people who didn't know how to dress themselves. Oh, well, I thought. I guess I'll have to buy some Levi's, but I'm sure these guys will eventually catch up with my fashion sensibilities.
I'm still waiting.

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