Saturday, March 20, 2010

College Was a Different World Indeed: My College Memories

So, the other day I’m sitting at my desk in my classroom as the students began arriving for class. Because they seemed particularly animated about something on this afternoon, I paused for just a minute so that I might determine what had them all stirred up, and before long it occurred to me that they were simply getting their plans together for the upcoming spring break.

And, amused, I just had to smile for a second or two as I remembered spring breaks past and the whole undergraduate college experience. Do you remember those? Or, if you did not attend college, do you remember just being young with no real responsibilities and just living life to the fullest?

I studied hard, and I studied long, but I did get in my foolishness. In fact, there are some days I remember this episode or that episode, and it suddenly dawns on me just how horribly things could have turned out. When you are young, you are often under the impression that you are somehow invincible, but only later and in hindsight do you realize that though you thought you knew it all, you really knew very little.

But after listening to my students, I took stock of my plans for spring break, and oh, how things have changed. Instead of Freaknik or Daytona Beach, my spring break plans consist of catching up on all those household chores that I have fallen behind on. Plus, I have a doctor’s appointment for a colonoscopy and a prostate exam. I just hope that for my prostate exam, I get that doctor with the little tiny hands as opposed of the one who played basketball in college.

But anyway, here are those memories of college life that stand out for me:

The Church Lady Well, the Church Lady was not this lady’s given name; it was the name that I and some of my close friends gave her in our freshman year. It seemed for the first two years of school, we had practically every class together. And she would show up every day, for each class, dressed like it was Easter, big hat and all. I just couldn’t figure it out. It all seemed like overkill to me.

One semester we took an 8 AM class together. I would drag in to class in flip-flops, a tank top, gym shorts, and crusty to be damned, and there she would be sitting right up front, frustrating everyone with that big hat blocking the board.

Over the years, we became friends though. In fact, she is my colleague at the college where I now teach. And guess what? She’s still showing up everyday dressed like it’s Easter morning.

Ramen Noodles A week or so ago I came across this article about a chef selling a bowl of ramen noodles for $100 dollars. You know I had to do a double take. One hundred dollars for a cup of ramen noodles? The chef stated that the many years of tradition and experience that went into each bowl justified that price.

Well, doing college I ate many, many bowls of ramen noodles. I bought Ramen noodles by the case. In fact, I ate so many ramen noodles during college that the very sight of ramen noodles makes me gag now.

And it has been my observation then and now that ramen noodles are an integral part of the college experience for many students. So, along with that college tradition and experience, cheap, cut-up hot dogs went into my ramen noodles. I wonder how much I could have charged.

Financial Aid Dispersal Day on the Yard You could always tell when the financial aid, student loan, and scholarship checks arrived because suddenly everything on the yard would seem brand new. Everyone on the yard would show up in new clothes and shoes. Some even showed up to school driving new cars or cars with new rims and booming systems. And for a week or so, ramen noodle sales dropped precipitously.

For a brief minute, everyone on the yard was some sort of tycoon. But of course the money soon ran out, and everything returned back to normal. Speaking of return, I had a friend who took her financial aid money and purchased a $600 Gucci purse that she had had her eyes on for quite some time. And she strutted around with that purse like she owned the world for a while. But then one day she asked me to take her to the mall to return the purse. It seems she had run short of cash and really needed that $600 dollars she spent on the purse.

My Oldsmobile Cutlass Brougham I was intent on buying me a car. Suddenly, the Mercury Comet my dad bought for me just didn’t suffice. My dad recommended that I wait until he could go with me to purchase my car so I didn’t end up with a lemon. Instead, I decided not to wait for him and go at it alone.

I ended up buying a 1981 Oldsmobile Cutlass Brougham for $700. The advertisement in the paper said low miles and one owner, but low miles really meant the low 100,000s and the one owner must have driven that car to hell and back, but I bought it anyway.

Six months later the car developed a problem. I don’t know if it was the engine or the transmission, but you could push the pedal all the way to the floor, and the car wouldn’t go over forty miles an hour. Then came the unexplained fumes. From some undetermined location, these noxious fumes would fill the car whenever you drove it. But did that stop me from driving it? Not at all.

I, along with my frat brothers, would drive along at forty miles an hour for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time until we got light-headed. Then we would pull over and step outside the car for a while so that we could clear our heads. We might have shown up a little late and light-headed, but we did not miss one party in town.

Impromptu Road Trips Some of the best times I had as a college student were on those impromptu road trips we took all over the Southeastern United States with no planning and very little money. Somebody would just show up and excitedly inform us about a party or a Greek show in this city or that city, and we would just look at each other, shrug our shoulders and hit the road.

Sometimes I marvel that we ever made it there and back in one piece and without incident. But the old saying goes that God gives special attention to fools and babies, so perhaps that figured into the equation.

I remember one such trip from Jacksonville, Florida, to Virginia Beach, Virginia, for a Greek show and party. Seven of us stuffed ourselves into my line brother’s ancient Toyota Celica hatchback/deathtrap with a suspect braking system and tires so bald that you could see the air in them. There was an eighth but we had to leave him behind to make room for the case of oil and transmission fluid we had to take with us; every time we stopped for gas or to get something to eat, we had to replenish the car’s fluid levels.

We drove there, partied until the wee hours of the morning and had breakfast, took a quick, uncomfortable nap in the car, and then drove back. One the way back, we had just enough money for gas. In fact, we must have rode for about an hour or so on pins and needles as the gas light glowed ominously red.

Was it irresponsible? Were we a bunch of fools? Yes, but when you are young, you sometimes simply don’t think of such things. And not only that I had more fun than I have ever had in my life. I just hope my kids have a bit more sense than I did.

What are your fondest memories of college or of just being young?


Tiffany said...

Wedid the Road Trips and ended up in the most crazy places doing the craziest things. If I gave you specifics I'd have to kill you, lol. We'd also have these crazy slumber parties with our friends that went to the rival college a few miles away. Meeeeeeemories!!!


Kandia said...

Oh what memories. My semester of college in Jamaica washing my clothes outside in that hot sun, sneaking off campus, the Ramen noodles and no-name snacks and sodas...falling in love, the little hole in the wall club where everybody hung out...signing up for the free credit cards and shopping like it was Xmas, little part time job on campus...Back down memory lane.

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