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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Waxing Scholastic

Welcome back, kids. Welcome back to the world of cliques, and tests, and general apathy for anything coming from a text book.

I never really minded going back to school as a kid. I mean, it did suck that the summer was over and as I got older, the summer seemed to go by quicker and quicker. But I never felt the dread some kids felt going back to school in the Fall. Maybe it was the time of year. After all, high school football was starting up and I had been actively attending the games, in a service role, since I was nine or ten. My dad was/is a member of the Lions Club International, in my hometown, and they were responsible for concessions at the games. On Friday nights, I’d be at the game, pouring pop drinks, making cotton candy and popcorn. When half time rolled around it was usually a cue for us kids to get out of the way, due to the extremely busy flow of customers and our smaller stature being more of a hindrance than a help. At this time, I’d go watch the half time shows.

In high school, I was a drummer in the marching band and attended every game in uniform. During these years, school started two weeks early, for me, as we had to go to band camp every day. Now, you can make any joke you want, but the drummers were the rebels and usually got into more trouble than most kids. In fact, I can remember one poor chaperone, who is the father of one of my oldest and dearest friends, being a good sport in the wake of our antics having been saddled with us misfits. So, for that, I have to give a shout out to Big Daddy D in Memphis. At least he had no knowledge of the Black Velvet Cooler on the bus.

Unfortunately, after high school, I only attended one game and really didn’t pay much attention. I was home on Fall break and more interested in seeing my girlfriend at the time after being away for three months. I lost track of things after that. I grew up and was spending more and more time at college.

But then college ended, too. That’s when you get the real wake up call. For any kid who bitches and moans about having to get up for that first day of school, just remember, in a few years you’re going to have to get up every day for work. There is no three months vacation and if you’re lucky, you will still get off on the weekends. Savor these days.

In fact, I miss those days. Last week, I had to drive down to Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh and took a route through my old stomping grounds at the University of Pittsburgh. Long story, short, my Mother in Law had her first round of chemo treatment and didn’t react very well. She got admitted over the weekend and this particular Friday night, my wife parked her car in valet parking which closed before she was ready to leave, prompting me to come rescue her. We managed to get the car out of the garage but she had to follow me home by a different route since we were afraid the Parkway East was closed for construction.

Driving through campus brought me back 10 years into my mind, but the landscape had drastically changed. Gone was The Pit, a small black box theater just down the street from the Litchfield Towers and The O. Gone was the parking lot between Hillman and Carnegie Libraries, replaced with Schenley Plaza, a small five acre park that has a carousel operating between April and October. Still there are the memories of descending onto campus in late August and into the bowels of the parking garage beneath the dorms with thousands of other residents. Each one of us, fighting tooth and nail for a big yellow cart, had to haul our belongings up to the tiny antiquated dorm rooms overlooking the streets of Oakland. At night, we lie in our rooms, listening to the cars zipping along Forbes and Fifth Avenue. Above us, the sky thumped with the sounds of Life Flight heading to one of the many hospitals on campus.

While most of my friends moved off campus, I stayed for all four and a half semesters that I attended Pitt. There was something about living on campus that felt right. Being close to everything was part of my plan. My dorm was my bedroom and the rest of campus was the rest of the house. Rent would have been ridiculous, especially for the dilapidated, run down, slums of Oakland that were passed off as acceptable housing to us students. Not to mention having to pay and lose security deposits every year as well as having more stuff to move in and out. I could make it through the entire school year off of what would fit in the bed of my Dad’s truck.

Oh, to be a student again, without the responsibilities of adulthood would be great. I could stand going to class again, instead of work. I could tolerate being up until two in the morning if I didn’t have to be up four hours later. I could stomach eating campus food from the cafĂ© if I didn’t have to worry about what I ate as I have neither the metabolism nor digestive system anymore to handle O Fries and beer on a Friday night.

However, I know one thing that has changed, since I graduated, that would doom me if I were in my 20s, again. When I was in college, we didn’t have Facebook and MySpace and Twitter like we do now. We had just begun to get Internet access in the dorms when I first enrolled and even then it was a phone line that prevented you from getting calls to your room. If you forgot to put your phone on voice mail, you ran the risk of getting booted off the phone line. Back then, I had to pay seven cents for every call to the computer lab. Ethernet access wasn’t available for another year or two. Still, the greatest thing we had to distract us from studying was a few chat rooms online.

But now, I could see myself shirking homework to make sure I helped my friends on Mafia Wars or waited for crops to be ready for harvesting. I would spend countless hours chatting with friends and wouldn’t care that I had a huge paper due in Philosophy. With the Internet the juggernaut that it is today, I would surely be doomed to fail or at least squeak by with a 2.0 GPA as I would rather have been on YouTube watching cats play piano and God knows what would have happened if I would have had a WoW account?

All of the coolest gadgets and technology that came about in the last five years are dedicated to the demographic who can take advantage of it, the high school and college student. Of course, I would have really abused it by using Twitter and Facebook to coordinate cheating on tests and with cell phone cameras, I could have probably made a small fortune by attending and filming classes with the intent of putting them online for students who had better things to do. I would have even gone to classes I wasn’t signed up for in order to maximize my earnings.

Ten years ago, had I known what I do now, I could have easily made money on eBay through various questionable means and my shirt shop on CaféPress would have been a good investment in order to make some side money. Fifty bucks a month today is nothing, now, but to a 20 year old, I would have been the collegiate equivalent of Bill Gates. As it was, I never had a full time job until after I graduated. I only worked during the summers which had to last me the other nine months of the year.

So, welcome back students. Hit the books, live it up and remember a good education isn’t always found in the classroom. That’s why I’m here. Call me Mongo the Tank.

P.S. You can get any of the designs you see here at Mongo Angry! Mongo Smash! the store.

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