Thursday, June 16, 2005

Dawning of a new era

As I walked off the Metro this morning, I ran into a fellow tool from college. This particular individual has attained far greater levels of toolishness than I ever aspired to, as my involvement in student government elections merely involved passing judgement on those foolhardy enough to run for office (no seriously... it was my job). Our brief conversation, however, brought back memories of that universal college experience. No, not beer bongs.

Him: "So, you know CI starts today?"

EJ: *Shudder*

CI, or Colonial Inauguration, is the pissing contest that my alma mater/employer masquerades as freshman orientation. There are laser shows, Capitol Steps performances and useless free stuff like beach towels with the university logo for every student. I can still hear my mother's gleeful cackle upon finding out that the parent itinerary for Night #2 included a moonlight trolley tour of the monuments followed by cocktails and jazz on the quad.

And now, five years later, the prefrosh are back for another chapter in the saga. Flipfloping around campus, toting spanking new Kate Spade bursting with glossy color brochures extolling the virtues of shitholes like Thurston, they trail behind impossibly petite and overtanned mothers in gold lame flats and tasteful-not-matronly linen capris. Two of them were behind me in line at Starbucks this morning, mother yapping away.

"This... Scholar's Village Townhouse... Dawn, that sounds cool, doesn't it? Dawn, doesn't that sound cool?"

Dawn did not respond, her stoic early morning face only hinting the mixture of pride, mortification and anticipation that appears during the pre-prom photo session and college orientation. She stayed silent execpt to order her nonfat grande caramel macchiato. Maybe she thought it was cool, but the excellent poker face didn't betray any emotion. Clearly, Dawn will fit right in here.

As I waited for my own four dollar cup of coffee, I debated striking up a conversation with them. A friendly encounter can take on extra significance in a transitional time. I remember my own CI experience with incredible clarity-- the small group I was late to because I was too busy talking with someone who I would later learn had massive people issues, the test-tube shots at Tequila Grill, the hideously cloying clap and chant routine used to introduce us to our leaders ("HI! I'm Shendrika, and if you're in Group 28 you're with me!!! *CLAP!*), waiting in line for student ID cards with a stranger who would wind up causing insane amounts of drama in my life exactly four years later. Orientation can be a time when everything takes on incredible importance and seems filled to the brim with possibility and potential. Yet, as Peter Parker taught us, that potential comes with responsibility. Wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, you absorb everything around you in fear that should you stop you'll miss out on what could make your college experience fantastic.

The admissions staffer part of me wanted to say hi and welcome to Dawn and Dawn Mom. The 9:00 AM worker bee part of me didn't let that happen. EJ before a cup of coffee should never be anyone's defining memory. I just hope she and all the other newbies have a great time at CI and still manage to leave having learned something about their new city and their new selves. They'll have successes and make mistakes, and the groundwork for some of those mistakes will be laid over the next few days while they meet each other and try to get a handle on the next four years. Still, I hope Dawn lets herself be wide-eyed and eager, as I suspect she probably is under that facade. The last thing this school needs is more apathetic yes-men.

And if nothing else, hopefully she'll learn never to go to Tequila Grill.

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