Saturday, June 02, 2007

the waiting game

I hate waiting for some things, which I think is only natural... especially in this drive-through, instant gratification, super-sized American society. I wrote a paper about this once, how it really wasn't my fault that I was a product of my environment (or my genetic predisposition, for that matter). Neither of which is exactly chosen by the person most affected during their formative years. Yadda, yadda, yadda. It was a great paper.


I think I should clarify that I really didn't write a lot of great papers. There were plenty of papers which I thought were great, then turned in, only to find out two weeks later that I had grossly overrated their greatness. Mostly, and please feign surprisement when you read this to protect my delicate ego, my papers were painfully average to the discerning eyes of my more-educated professors. But occassionally-- and I do mean that literally-- I would crank out something officially percieved as great.


I lived in dorms the whole time I was in college, which was a special experience all to itself. My roomate and I were always asked by the incoming freshmen to score some alcohol for them, but we were always afraid they'd get stupid drunk and somehow the powers that be in housing would find out that we bought it for them. So we stuck to sneaking in our own booze. Except one time my roomate knew one of the girls who moved into our dorm from her hometown. We bought her alcohol, but mandated that she drink with us in our room so that we could monitor her tipsy-meter.

On one of those nights (not the one where we all tried on each other's lingere) she was worried about writing her first real "college" paper. Between sips of cheap corn whiskey and cheap tequilla that tasted like ash tray, I gave her directions about how to format her paper, where to put citations, whatever. She was drinking Bombay sapphire gin at the time. And would you know that she made a better grade on that paper than any paper I turned in to any of my classes -- using the exact same format that I use. She was so proud and appreciative. I didn't really know how to feel.


I feel like I should interject that we didn't drink much, compared to other college student standards. And when I say "much", I mean both by incident and by amount of alcohol consumed per incident. I would venture to say that none of us (3-4 lightweight girls) never truly got plastered while drinking with each other. We may have decided to drink 4 times a semester (a liberal guess), and never crossed the line between tipsy and stupor. (Except one time one of us did have a little too much; we took some great pictures of her with all of the alcohol bottles that we all had purchased sitting around her, while she was holding up a shot glass. It's a fantastic picture, and I would share it, but I promised never to do so. I'm keeping it for fodder when she runs for political office.)


We thought we were really rebels the first time we snuck alcohol up to our dorm room. On the ride over to the liquor store, incidently in a big hoopdy van, I confessed that I had never really done this (drink for the sake of drinking); that I was sure I would have a low tolerance, but I was ready for the ride. My next red-headded companion confessed that she had drank for the sake of drinking, but she had an "average tolerance". My roomate, and driver, who was older and wiser, (and who had attended more Beater-Waver parties than either the red-head or myself) declared that she had a "high tolerance", and advised us not to try to keep up with her. It was a serious moment in the parking lot of the alcohol store.

My roomate, who boasted of high alcohol tolerance, bought three mini-bottles of pre-mixed Mudslides. Back at our dorm room, she would drink half of one before her face turned red and she declared she should slow down. She finished the one before she went to bed.

The red-head bought a $4 bottle of tequilla that smelled like feet. She, of self-boasted moderate tolerance, did outlast my roomate before going back to her room to sleep.

I bought a bottle of Arbor Mist. There was enough for the red-head and I to have two glasses (dorm plastic tumblers, free when we moved into said dorm). I drank some of the tequilla, too, but didn't get tipsy before my more experienced counterparts declared they had drank too much and needed to go to quit.

Every time we drank together from that point on, I rubbed-in that my roomate had the highest tolerance of the three of us, but would be the first to cry uncle. It was somewhat frustrating to always be the last one standing without a buzz, but it did lend to many wonderful photographic opportunities where I was the safe one behind the camera.

Back to the tech:

My computer in college was a monstrous dinosaur, but it served its purpose. By the end of my formal education its wires in the back were so loose that if you bumped the desk the wrong way, the computer would jiggle and power off. Most of my best work was lost to accidental jiggles. It does not take many times for this to happen (where you lose an hour's work in less than a second) before one learns to save their work after every sentence, as these were the days before automatic draft-saving.

I remember the transition from the floppy donught disk to its smaller (not-floppy) counterpart. And then when the ZIP disk hit the scene (which was even less floppy) I thought we were really moving up in the world of technology. I have all of the disks with my college papers on them in a plastic box (including one ZIP disk). I know there's stuff on there, but I was never really good at labeling the disks to show what was on them. I learned quickly that I needed to always have a blank disk (in it's color-coordinated plastic safety shell) in my backpack at all times -- because you never really know when you would need to visit the computer lab.

The computer lab-- where magic happened on campus. There was a computer lab in my dorm, and there were always people in it. And why would I need to go to the lab if I had a computer in my dorm room? Because my computer functioned as a word processor, played countless hours of Tetris, and allowed me to telnet to check my email (telnet://frank!). It would not run Netscape or IE. If I needed to do any research, I had to visit somewhere that would allow me to use a web browser.


I was very angry when MTSU turned off my email account, about a year after I graduated. It wasn't as big of a deal as I made it out to be, but at the time it really (REALLY) pissed me off. I think I even fired off a letter to alumni relations, suggesting that they NEVER contact me for a donation to the university. (As if I have enough money to spare, but they didn't know that.) Alas, , was no longer.

Back to waiting:

And so I am a product of my fast-paced environment, with quick thoughts and tangents, yet the need to push forward to completion... and I'm not the only one, which brings me no consolation when I'm the one waiting. And so I can't imagine that the fact that we're waiting, too, would bring any other waiting person consolation. It doesn't work that way in this society or our culture.

I think it's cruel to invoke the advice "this, too, shall pass" to someone else who is waiting, because the only thing it has done for me is make me angry at the person who said it. I'm not going to say that your waiting or your situation is happening to make you a better person, because that, too, is a load of kaka. I'm not going to say that time has a way of changing things, like the evolution of species, technology or tolerance, because you don't want to hear any of that when you're the one waiting. I've been the recipient of lots of advice in the last year, most of which only benefited the person who gave it.

Despite all of this, I wanted to make an effort to recognize your uncomfortable wait. I want to say that it's okay to be nervous. I want to say that if there was anything we could do to speed things up, we would do it twice just to make sure it worked.

We love you and our prayers and good vibrations are headed your way.


bill said...

That was an outstanding post. One worth reading and rereading.

And it in no way helps me to believe that you did not routinely write great papers.

genderist said...

Ha! In that case I wish you would have taught in the English Department!!

Molly Jane said...

This induced tears James, tears...thanks for helping me relive some fantastic moments.

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