Category Archives: Ghostland

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler waded through a rockin’ teenage party in search of his son and didn’t notice all of the drinking underagers:

Gansler, a Democrat who is running for governor, said this week that he stopped by the Delaware beach house to talk briefly with his teenage son and then left. He said he does not remember whether he saw anyone drinking. But even if he had, Gansler said, it was not his responsibility as a parent or a high-ranking law enforcement official to intervene.

“Assume for purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party,” Gansler said. “How is that relevant to me? … The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people’s children at beach week in another state? I say no.”

That’s a good point. It’s not as though he is the chief legal officer of the State of Maryland. Except he is. Nor is there an element of hypocrisy here because it’s not like he has made underage drinking one of his issues. Which he did.

This is low-hanging fruit, though. There is a fundamental truth here that underage people will drink and will party if they are invited to them. Should his son have to live in fear because his father is a politician and if his son finds the party it’s bound to get busted up by Johnny Law? In a sense, that’s unfair to the kid. Of course, it also goes to show the problems of things being against the law even when everyone pretty much knows that they are broken on a pretty regular basis. One would also assume that had the police been called, the treatment of the sorts of kids attending a party with the Attorney General’s son might be treated differently than a party attended by rabble.

Back when I was in high school, I attended one of my brothers’ frat parties. I remember some cops coming around beforehand offering their services for security. If you have a cop on sight, apparently you can get an insurance break. “Don’t worry, they said, we are keeping our eyes looking out and not in, unless asked to do otherwise. Which pretty much goes to show the nature of the law as it is in effect.

The only time I ever came close to having to deal with the consequences of such a thing is when I was about 17 or so and at a drinking party of my friend Charlie Langston. There was a cop there who came out of nowhere. Actually, judging from where he was, he had probably been there a while. He was sitting on a deck chair by the pool talking to a female attendee of the party. I am guessing he was acting as apartment security or something and not in his official capacity as a cop. I just remember screaming “Holy $%@#, you’re a cop! What are you doing here?!”

I was, in all likelihood, inebriated at the time. And seventeen.

Fun fact: I held up the left leg of the son of the State Treasurer (at the time) of Deltona while he did one of those keg things.

When I was in middle school, one of the things we had to do for physical education was “dance.” Like, partnered dancing. To do this, obviously, you needed partners.

The way that the coaches had it set up was that they lined up all of the guys on one side of the gymnasium, and all of the girls at the other, and you picked your partner. Guys or girls would walk across the gym and ask someone to be their dance partner. By rule, if asked, you cannot decline.

I’m not entirely sure what the purpose behind this ritual was. Maybe there was a confidence-building aspect to it. “Hey, I asked a girl, and she said ‘yes’! (never mind that she had to)” Maybe it was just a way that partners could partner off by their own volition and that allowing people to decline would be fraught with hazard (because junior high kids don’t know rejection)? Maybe it was a way in which nobody could be blamed for saying yes.

I remember that when I learned of this, my thought was that I hated it. I didn’t care if they had to say yes because, if they didn’t want you to be their partner, you’d find out about it. As conspicuously as possible. I had visions of the girl I was dancing with trashing me relentlessly just to make sure everybody knew she was only doing it because she had to. That was the way things worked. You made dang sure that even if you were partnered with someone, if you didn’t want to be associated with them, you made sure that everyone knew it. It worked this way with school assignments. With dancing? That times ten.

So I sure as heck wasn’t going to ask anyone. And it was doubtful that anyone would ask me. So I’d end up in the randomly assigned group. This, too, lent itself to conspicuous disassociation, but at least then you could both claim that it’s not what you wanted. That was how it worked with school assignments. If they rolled their eyes loudly, I would do my part to make sure that everyone knew this was an assigned partnership. I didn’t want to be associated with someone that didn’t want to be associated with me. Which meant asking nobody.

I didn’t expect many people to cross the gym. I figured most people would do what I was going to do. We shuffled our collective feet for what seemed like half an hour but was maybe a couple minutes. Then, finally, #14 (a jock) crossed the threshold and asked a hyperpopular girl. She looked relieved. I recall her having a boyfriend of higher stature than #14, but I guess she thought that he would do and was much better than the alternatives (like, me).

Come to think of it, it was the ultimate opportunity for the worst reject to put a cog in the works of the way that things were supposed to work. The nerdier, the more power you had. It was a transient power, because you wouldn’t get anything more than a dance partner, but it was something. Only if you were willing to do what I was not.

After he broke the ice, more people started moving. Almost entirely from the boy’s side. This was my worst nightmare. The more people who boycotted the ritual, the more safety there was. At the rate things were going, I was going to be among a small group without the gumption to pick a parner. The only upside is that I would get coupled with a fellow reject who would have little room to loudly roll her eyes. Oh, but who was I kidding? She’d roll them anyway.

Then, out of nowhere, came Ashley. If the class photo is still expandable, I’m pretty sure the Ashley is the girl next to #30. Ashley and I had conversed very lightly before, of the “Can I borrow your pencil?” variety, but that was about it. She was leagues and leagues above me. She was… actually kind of attractive. It was, in retrospect, quite amazing that she hadn’t been picked yet. Then there she was, picking me. She didn’t “ask” like she was supposed to, instead opting for “let’s go”, but who the flip cared.

It was all kind of chaotic, so I don’t know who I might have been partnered with otherwise. But having avoided the lottery, I was on cloud nine. That she was attractive was nice, but not as important as that she wanted to be there. Well, that may have been an overstatement: she wanted to be there more than all of the other available options. Well, that may have been an overstatement: she felt a warm enough pity for me that she picked me rather than let me twist in the wind.

She was also a great partner. By which I mean, she was patient with me. She never rolled her eyes. We did okay together. It was a good thing, too, because my class critics/bullies didn’t relent. A few people, perhaps assuming that we were an assigned pair, made fun of the asymmetry of our partnership. “Oooh, look, Will is dancing with a real live girl!” and more than once she would say “Because I asked him.” (Standing up for me! In a fashion.) One of the more persistent critics was actually #27, who was dancing with #30, both of whom would later become friends (and #27 my guardian protector). Boy I hated him then, though.

I really don’t know why she did it. Very few guys would have rolled their eyes at being picked by her. If any. She wasn’t a 10 by our school’s standards, but she was a solid 8. Maybe minus one for her general dress.

I always felt an immense appreciation for what she did that day. I consider it a grand favor on her part, though looking back at it almost 20 years later she surely had her reasons. I just can’t imagine what reason it might have been. She went into it with a positive attitude and made what could have been a very long six-week term one of the highlight of my days.

Category: Ghostland, School

-{Childish Things}-

For some reason, I got it in my head to watch an episode or two of Voltron. I have fond memories of Voltron. I remember the playground at West Oak Elementary where we used to argue over who would get to be which lion. I never got any of the figures myself, but I got access to them when I played with friends.

One of the things I remember was the inconvenient of the Blue Lion being female. No females at West Oak Elementary wanted to play Voltron, and no boy wanted to be the female Blue Lion. The way out of this was to say “Well the original Blue Lion was a boy!” Truthfully, I thought we were making that up. It turns out that we weren’t. There was another Blue Lion before the Princess became the Blue Lion.

One of the thoughts I had while watching it was a fan dub idea wherein the bad guy was actually a freedom fighter of sorts, who was pointing out how ridiculous it was that the townspeople lived in squalor while the royal family had all of these super-neat toys and a comparatively opulent castle. It’s funny how I notice these things as I get older.

Category: Ghostland, Theater

I’ve commented before that in high school, I typically often lunch alone. It was a combination of back luck (always seeming to have a different lunch period from all of my friends) and an inability to “put myself out there” and find people to eat with. There were some respites from this isolation, however.

I can’t remember how Clint and I ended up eating with Sonja and Grace. I think it was the semester that we had previously been eating with Myron – a lunch companion we felt a strong need to get away from. Yet even that doesn’t make sense. I have multiple memories of the same thing. But somehow, we ended up just eating by ourselves within proximity to Sonja and Grace, who were also eating by themselves. And eventually our pairs merged and the four of us ate and chatted together for a time.

This was a-okay by us because both Clint and I had independently noticed – and discussed – Grace. She was rather cute, if you noticed her, but she had the sort of face that almost seemed designed to be inconspicuous. She wasn’t overweight, but didn’t have much of a chest. A little tall, pale-skinned, but not a thing objectionable about her. She dressed in a peculiar manner partially designed to get attention, but we never got the impression that she really succeeded. You had to be looking for girls like her to notice her. Clint and I did look for such girls. In lieu of girls like Sonja, who I will get to in a second, Grace was the sort of girl we felt we had a shot with and would have been really happy to couple up with. She was shy, however, and so were we, and so it was one of those things that each of us would notice, ask the other if they had noticed her, and then talk about how she was the sort of girl we would notice, be glad to couple up with, and might even have a shot with.

So it seemed fortuitous when we ended up lunching with her. The only problem was, we were also lunching with Sonja. I’d had a couple of classes with Sonja, but hadn’t thought all that much of her. Except that her matter-of-fact, earth-shattering beauty was not coupled with any sort of self-elevation, snobbery, or, for that matter, popularity. She was, after all, eating alone with the invisible Grace. But she was Hollywood star beautiful. If you’d asked me to name the 20 most beautiful girls at our huge high school, she would have probably made the list before we started lunching with her. To put a fine point on it: she wore nail polish. I didn’t care.

And this created a problem. Because as awesome as Grace was – with her unassuming looks combined with outstanding style of dress – she was standing next to a girl that was virtually a model. A gregarious, personally pleasant, intelligent, single model. We both agreed that Grace was much more up our alley (and that, in addition to being quite cute, was also pleasant once you got her talking). Whenever Clint and I had a group of two-and-two, we had the tendency to want to partner up. Not that we had delusions of romantic stuff, but just a pairing. This itself created problems because we’d always hone in on the same person. The Grace, typically. But the Grace was usually next to a girl that was fat, or unpleasant, or pretty but with a bad personality. Here, she was sitting next to Grace.

And so the Invisible Girl that Clint and I had noticed was, in a near-perfect situation, invisible to us again. She made it easy, because she so rarely talked. But it’s one of the things I look back on with a certain perplexity. It’s also one of the things I look back on as evidence that no, I am not too terribly different from most guys. I fall under the spell of the conventionally beautiful – under at least some circumstances – just like the rest.

It’s also one of those things that outlines the positional nature of the relationship market. Partially because Grace’s presence was amplified or muted by who she was sitting next to. Partially, though, because even though Clint and I never denied that Grace was as cool as she was by our own typical standards, we both wanted to be associated with the more desirable person. Even if we had no chance of romance with her, we’d forgo what might have been a legitimate chance with Grace just for the chance to be more publicly associated* with the likes of Sonja.

Just as I don’t remember how the situation came to be, I don’t remember how it broke up, either. It was, for its time, a wonderful pocket of existence. I’d lament that I never got more opportunities like that, except for the fact that we sort of blew it.

Category: Ghostland, School

A reminder that I came up in the 80’s…

I didn’t say *my* 4th grade class. Even so, this was another class in my school, so I knew a lot of the kids because I was in the same class as them in earlier grades or the 5th grade. This picture will not be up for very long and will be replaced with an obscured one.

1 – Lived down the street from me. Disappeared from our school system at some point not long after this picture was taken (in fact, I could have sworn she had been gone by the 4th grade). She later died of a drug overdose.

2 – One of my best friends through parts of middle school. Then we went on different trajectories. He got a girlfriend pregnant almost immediately after high school and never went to college.

3 – I knew him quite well growing up, then at some point he just turned. He dropped out of high school and did a stint in prison.

4 – My family was close to her family and I’ve written about her on this blog before. She moved to Deseret and became part of some strange religion that required that she change her name. She was pregnant by 19 and had another kid by 21. While pregnant with her second, she cut off all ties to her family. She had one brother who ended up in Cascadia. He, too, severed all ties with his parents. It’s really weird, because their parents (who used to sit us often) seemed like great folks.

5. I was a horrible, horrible friend to this kid. I don’t even want to recount what exactly I did, but it ruined him socially. He must have known. Yet, years later, sent a Facebook friend request and we’ve chatted. If his Facebook info is to be believed, he has done unbelievably well for himself.

6. Remember that girl I posted about who married the guy several leagues below her? For those of you who don’t remember, she’s an MD now.

7. Is female. Even today, looks a little bit like a guy in drag.

8. Went to the prom with a guy who turned out to be gay. It should have been the first clue. She was gorgeous and he was utterly uninterested in her all night long. She was pissed, but they’re Facebook friends now, so I guess she got over it.

9. Graduated college at age 20, got two masters degrees and a PhD. Is a statistical analyst for a major insurance company. Four kids. Writes zombie fiction.

10. I was often confused with her brother, who was decidedly unpopular.

11. He left after the 4th grade, I think. He and I were friends, but the guy has the personality of a Monty Card dealer. I hope he ended up in Vegas.

With the exception of the tall brown kid, the boy below #4, and the girl between #7 and #8, I actually don’t remember any of the other kids in this picture. Which is rather astonishing to me, because it used to be that I remembered everybody.

Category: Ghostland, School

When I was in high school, my favorite (in the sense that I kind of liked him and was indifferent to or detested the others) was Mr Holt. Holt was a retired chemical engineer who struck it big with his employer’s IPO and decided that he wanted to teach.

His opening lecture had us take a simple sort of test. We were supposed to follow the instructions on a worksheet. The first of which was “Read all of the instructions first.” The last of which was “Disregard all instructions but the first.”

Nobody did that, of course. And so when instruction number two said “raise your hand,” most of the class did. Same for stand up for three seconds then sit down. One by one, we began to notice fewer people doing these odd little things. We went back to the first instruction, followed it, then saw the last instructions. Towards the middle of the document the commands became verbal “Say ‘This room is hot.'” By the end, you were to be saying things like “I cannot follow instructions precisely.” Only a couple got that far. Most had, by simple way of noticing what their peers were not doing, figured it out.

As someone that never got “in” to science, it was one of the most instructive lessons ever. Partially the social aspect of it. You noticed what others weren’t doing and then tried to figure out why. But mostly, it was a good lesson on understanding the importance of following instructions. Kind of important for a chemistry class. Kind of important for life.

On the other hand, going through the training manual for my (hopefully) coming job, it’s apparently a lesson I forgot. It said, quite clearly, “Do not do anything that is not specified in the instructions, no matter how obvious it may seem.”


Category: Ghostland, School

This actually isn’t hypothetical, because it happened to a classmate in my college phys-ed class. About a third of our grade was based on overall physical fitness (our ability to run the mile-and-a-half, life weights, and so on), a third based on participation (were you at least trying?) and a third based on classroom work. That second part was also based on physical fitness, to some extent, because you started getting docked whenever you stopped jogging or when you had to call it quits for lack of physical fitness. The classwork was dreadfully easy. Obviously, for someone not in good physical shape, the fitness tests were hard.

My friend-for-a-class Ned was in overall pretty good shape (well, much better shape than me – and I was not a smoker at the time). The thing is that he was a smoker. He could start and stop at will and so for the fitness tests (most specifically the running test which was the hardest) he would actually stop smoking for a few days before the run. So on the jogging test, he kicked my posterior and actually came in 7th (out of 30). He beat me by some margin on every physical test.

When we got our grades, though, I got a B- and he got a C. When he talked to the instructor about this (I was with him to verify that we showed the same effort in class), she said that she docked him because he was a smoker. She’d seen him smoking first thing after class or before class. He smelled of the stuff. In her mind, his smoking was indicative of a lack of commitment to physical health. Ned’s counterpoint was that it was none of her business. He ran the laps, lifted the weights, and did everything he was expected to do. On what basis could she dock him points? She said that his “participation” grade was low because he really wasn’t giving it his all (usually working at the same pace that I did). If it weren’t for the cigarettes, she said, he could have done more. And since smoking was his choice, he lost participation points. And yet I (Will) didn’t, Ned argued, despite showing the exact same effort.

The difference, she argued, was that what was a greater effort for me was less of an effort for him. It’s graded on a curve.

He argued that he was then being punished for being in shape (in terms of effort) more than I was being punished for being out of shape (in terms of fitness challenge performance).

She shrugged it off, saying that physical fitness was about appreciating your body and that there was no sign that somebody didn’t appreciate their body like smoking, and so ultimately he deserved a worse grade than he got. Did he want that? The conversation ended there.

So, the question is, should phys-ed be able to punish someone for being a smoker if it doesn’t show up in their ability to practice and perform? Even though I later became a smoker, I can actually somewhat appreciate her perspective on the matter. Smoking, as compared to excess weight (my problem at the time) is a more binary decision. And as difficult as it is to quit smoking, the quit-success is much higher for smoking than dieting is for overweight people.

On the other hand, it seemed pretty apparent to me that this declaration was pretty arbitrary. She was punishing him for a habit that he found disgusting. Nowhere was it written down that smokers are penalized (beyond the physical toll it takes). Presumably, if it had been written down, he would have at least taken more care not to show up smelling like smoke. Maybe he should have done that anyway to be considerate, but being considerate is not a factor in his grade.

Of course, all of this comes back to the difficulty when it comes to grading people in PE. In no other college course is “effort” graded directly, nor should it be. Or maybe it is, since that’s what attendance grades and a lot of homework assignments are. Ultimately, though, most of your grade is supposed to come from the degree to which you demonstrate mastery over the subject matter. That’s hard to do for PE because you can understand the subject matter of running very, very well and yet still not be able to do it. It’s difficult to make up for lack of ability (over the course of a single semester) with determination and discipline. Most classes, determination and discipline are going to be, if not sufficient to overcome all, at least sufficient to overcome some of it.

And, ultimately, being able to run the 1.5-mile over a period of time isn’t really what people go to college for. Even classes like Comparative Folk Dancing offer something in terms of learning how to communicate ideas (regardless of the frivolity of the subject-matter). I suppose the ability to take care of oneself physically does matter to future employers, but that has to be viewed as a lifetime project and not something you’re going to pick up in class. It’s easy to translate term papers into something useful in the business world, but more difficult to translate squats.

All of this is of course contingent on viewing college as vocational training. I suppose if you disagree with that on a fundamental level, you can view phys-ed as a more abstract good. Of course, those that view college as a sort of a self-improvement thing apart from vocational training are also the types who hate jocks for all of the wedgies they got when they were younger.

The subject of cheating seems to be coming up here and there. A lot of it pertaining to this article, written by a professional ghostwriter for college papers. Further commentary by Otherwill and Rufus at The League.

Longtime readers of Hit Coffee may remember that once upon a time, I was a ghostwriter for my then-girlfriend Julianne at the college level. She and I took three classes together and she shrugged off all three. The end-result was that I would get upset calls at 2 in the morning from Julianne saying that she hadn’t started the paper due the next day, had no idea what to write, and little or no knowledge of the subject-matter because of all of the classes that she missed. So I would take care of it for her. I was happy to the first few times, though after enough reiterations of how these last-minute deadlines came at her suddenly without any warning (when she’d groused at me for reminding her of it as the date approaches) and her being caught flatfooted, it gets exasperating.

Anyhow, I’m sure that you’re shocked to hear this, but I can be a kind of wordy fellow and so when a paper was meant to be 3-5 pages long, I usually had to struggle to meet the five-page maximum. So there was usually an abundance of material for a half-hearted rewrite for Julie’s benefit. I would cut out several points, usually add a couple, or if it was a paper that we had flexibility on, topic-wise, pick up on something that got cut from my paper and run with it. The papers were junk. Typically mindless, unoriginal, and about as by-the-numbers as you could possibly imagine.

They also – every single one of them – got a higher grade than the papers that I turned in with my own name. And it was never that I was overtly docked for failing to stay on-point or for rambling on. Quite the opposite. I would get docked for failing to address a particular point. Her paper failed to address it, too, but it only seemed to matter on mine. I have a number of theories as to why hers graded better than mine, though none make a whole lot of sense. By the third class I though about simply reversing the names on the papers, but though a cheater I was I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was proud of my A- papers and her A+ papers were, as far as I was concerned, parrot droppings. In two of the three classes I got a higher grade than her simply because I couldn’t take the test for her as well. In the third class I actually could help her with the tests, too, and she scored the highest grade in the class and got an email from the prof saying as much.

I’m sure if there are any Game-types that read this, they are thinking how pathetically beta my behavior is. Probably thinking that she lost all respect for me as I bent over backwards doing these things for her. The problem is that it couldn’t be further from the truth. She was actually very appreciative and did not lead her to dump by ass or cheat on me with an alpha. She did kind of take it for granted, and that caused some ill-will on my part, but she never took me for granted. After the third class together where she almost never showed up at all, I resolved that I wouldn’t take any more classes with her. It didn’t matter as our relationship collapsed at the end of that semester and she had flunked out of Southern Tech University anyway.

The second, and to me more interesting story, is this one from the University of Central Florida. Basically, some students got ahold of the test bank and the professor caught wind of it. There is a video of the lecture that the professor gave to his students, offering them an out:

“I don’t want to have to explain to your parents why you didn’t graduate, so I went to the Dean and I made a deal. The deal is you can either wait it out and hope that we don’t identify you, or you can identify yourself to your lab instructor and you can complete the rest of the course and the grade you get in the course is the grade you earned in the course.”

That’s a pretty generous deal. In fact, so generous that even if I didn’t cheat* I might fess up to having done so simply out of fear of their algorithms incorrectly identifying me as a cheater. I mean, the overall cost is lost face in the eyes of a professor and a four-hour ethics course. That punishment is guaranteed. But if the algorithms are wrong and you are incorrectly identified, the consequences are absolutely ruinous. It’s the same dynamic that leads people to confess to crimes they didn’t commit because they’re allowed to confess on a lesser charge. I mean, how much faith would you have in their algorithms? Probably a lot now, but back when I was in college? I’d probably grant at least a 5-10% chance of it being wrong. And I wouldn’t like those odds.

I wonder how many of the people that confessed were innocent but making that same calculation?

I never cheated on a college exam. I came close once, having printed out all my notes on a little piece of paper. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. In addition to helping Julianne out with her college studies, I also helped out some kids in junior high and high school for various reasons (some I regret, others I don’t). I did get caught trying to copy someone’s paper during a Spanish exam. I needed glasses and did not yet have them. The teacher did not have to be particularly perceptive to catch me. My friend Clint, incidentally, was caught by the exact same teacher trying to change his grade in her gradebook. She threatened to get a handwriting expert and he broke.

Category: Ghostland, School

The subject of gifted and talented programs has been coming up, which reminds me of the story of Lamar Heston and the Superstars program. The Superstars program was a Southfield-Mayne Regional School District invention that took the brightest kids from each of the district’s elementary schools and, once a week, bussed them out to take an afternoon of classes together. West Oak Elementary School had four slots, two for boys and two for girls.

My older brothers are both in the same grade. There was no way that two brothers were going to be chosen for the two slots, so Mom didn’t expect both to get in. She wouldn’t have been surprised if neither got in. She was a bit surprised that of the two Truman boys it was the lower-achieving Oliver that got in rather than Mitch. Ollie was an achiever, but not in any standout sort of way. Indeed, the reason that he was in the same grade as his younger brother was that he was held back a year (for maturity rather than academic reasons, but still). That, however, wasn’t nearly as much of a surprise as the inclusion of Lamar Heston.

The main thing that you need to know about Lamar Heston is that the last time I saw him, two years ago, he worked at Wendy’s. And not because he was a Rick Rosner, not in a position of authority, and not because of any temporary setback. He wasn’t a terrible student, but he had some pretty serious behavioral and attitudinal problems. To say the least. Not only was he working at Wendy’s in his mid-30’s but nobody I know that knows him is surprised that he is working at Wendy’s in his mid-30’s.

Mom was baffled. She was actually somewhat indifferent to her kids getting into the Superstars program because she was concerned about our being too sheltered. But why Ollie over Mitch? And why the hell Lamar? The answer was pretty simple and you have probably already figured it out. Mitch was perfectly behaved and Ollie was a chatterbox with an attention problem. Oh, and Lamar was a disciplinary nightmare. Why the hell should the teacher put up with Ollie and (to a much, much greater extent) Lamar if she doesn’t have to? Lamar was black and possibly the only black kid there and there was nobody in the Superstars program that was going to single him out as undeserving of being there.

The next year Mitch and a similarly bright student were invited into the Superstars program. Mom declined.

When I was going through, they actually had three boys and three girls. The main reason being is that they couldn’t just accept the Weatherby Brothers and they couldn’t pick between the identical twins.

Category: Ghostland, School

In a long discussion with Phi about the whole Phoebe Prince mess, the subject of friendships in the lower echelons of high school popularity. He commented that when he was younger he had friendships but no group of friends. It’s a distinction that I hadn’t actually put a whole lot of thought into. Thinking about my own experience, it’s not exactly true for me, but it’s at least as true or not.

I didn’t have a dearth of friends. I was fortunate to go to a school with over 4,000 students where simply numbers suggested that you would find someone you were compatible with. I actually did better than that, having at least someone I was friendly with in each class. Sometimes a group of people. Were they friends? Not exactly. But we were at least friendly acquaintances. Don’t get me wrong, I had genuine friends, too. Not a large number, but I never really wanted a large number.

And there were sort of groups. There was a group of us that would get to school at an ungawdly hour of the morning so that we could get a good parking space. My best friend Clint also had some friends that I was very friendly with. Andrea Carmine and that gang. But these were casual and makeshift groups and while I was friendly with them, with the exception of The Early Bird Club, the connection was pretty weak and through a bilateral friendship. I was friends with one of them and so I got to know them. The only way it would go beyond that is if I had a class with them and I rarely did (it was, after all, a school of 4,000). Never a group big enough and close enough that I would have a natural destination when entering a classroom or the lunchroom or whatever.

So when it came to actual groups, I was not hugely successful. Unless I had an ambassador conduits like Clint or Andrea, I had a lot of trouble breaking in. It’s pretty frustrating to look back on. Mostly because I really had no one but myself to blame. I didn’t have the social confidence yet I would eventually acquire. I lacked drive. I was a little too comfortable by myself.

Beyond that, I also failed to realize how to lay groundwork for group activities. I never participated in any extracurricular activities. I disliked Mayne High School with a passion and didn’t want to contribute to it in the slightest. I didn’t fully realize the social implications of that. Further, I segregated myself by declining to be in honors classes. I lost touch with a whole lot of the friendships I had made before the tracking began. I retouched base with them at the High School Reunion and was reminded of what I had missed out on. Besides honors students, the most natural fit was oddly band. It was Clint’s friends from band that I got along with the most. The problem was that I wasn’t the least bit musical.

I have a lot of regrets about my socialization in high school. I see so many missed opportunities. Since making friends was difficult, since I had more robust social life apart from the school, and since I didn’t need a whole lot of friends most of the time, I just didn’t extend the effort I could have. Most of the time this didn’t matter, but I look back and shake my head at the times it did. Most particularly, I had no one to sit with at lunch. I don’t know how exactly it happened, but it seemed that every semester I would end up tossed with the 1/3 of the school that I didn’t know. That’s a mild exaggeration as I did have a couple good semesters with Clint and I made do a couple other semesters, but when there are 1,300 people in the cafeteria at any given lunch period, there’s no excuse for ever sitting alone. Or having to sit with a group of people that you really don’t like but are there.

All of this made it so strange that at my high school reunion, I ended up sitting at a random table, introducing myself to a group of people that I didn’t know, and made three friends. When we parted ways I told them that I wish I had known them back in the day. My bad.

Category: Ghostland, School