Although I am justified in lecturing my daughter about the importance of school, I feel like a hypocrite when I do it. Not that I didn’t get good grades when I was a kid. I was pretty much a straight A student, with the exception of the Jr. High years when I was an awkward bundle of hormones and uncertainty. Jesus, those years sucked ass, big-time. The only thing that kept me from throwing myself off of a bridge was the possibility that someday an equally awkward and uncertain girl would let me feel up her goodies. Anyway, the reason I feel like a hypocrite when lecturing my daughter is simple: College.
When I was in college, I wasn’t exactly what you would call a model student. In fact, calling me any kind of student at all was a stretch because the word “student” implies that there is a certain amount of effort expended in areas such as studying, doing homework, attending class, etc. and there just wasn’t a whole lot of that going on. I did try to go to class though, only ditching a class when it fell into one of the following three categories:
- I was getting an A in the class and had a thorough mastery of the subject.
- The class was before noon.
- The class was located on planet Earth.
Still, I did manage to sneak in a class or two during my college years, and I honestly don’t know why I didn’t do it more often. There were lots of hot girls to talk to (“Hey, that’s one hell of a polynomial, huh? Do you come here often?”), the large class sizes meant that you could doze off without anyone getting bent out of shape, and sometimes, believe it or not, you actually had fun.
During the first week of my sophomore year, frequent commenter and long-time friend B’Homey and I were preparing for the long semester ahead by getting higher than Jesus. Apparently out of things to talk about, we began to talk about school, specifically a physics class we had taken the year before. Although the professor was incredibly square and only slightly cooler than George McFly, he did try to keep the class entertained, often staging elaborate demonstrations.
“Hey, remember the time he fucking shot Curious George?” asked B’Homey. The very first demonstration of the year had involved a Curious George doll that was attached to the ceiling in the lecture hall, twenty feet above the floor. Across the room sat a compressed-air blowgun that fired a dart. When a button was pushed, two things happened at once: The dart was fired; and the magnet holding up Curious George was released. When the blowgun had a lot of pressure, the dart travelled extremely fast and hit Curious George before he’d fallen more than a few feet. When the blowgun had very little pressure, the dart lazily arced towards Curious George and hit him just before he hit the floor. This demonstrated the important scientific principle that physics is a great way to assassinate monkeys.
As I laughed at the memory of the demonstration, a thought occurred to me. “Holy shit, that was on the second day of class, right? And that class was at 3:00 PM, right? If the schedule hasn’t changed, they’re going to shoot Curious George again in about thirty minutes, right across the fucking street!”
To make sure we got the most out of our educational experience, we got super-fucking high (more so) and went to a class that we didn’t have. (Although you would think that attending extra classes would be the kind of thing that would make your parents proud, I opted to keep this information secret from them, along with pretty much everything else I did at college.) Sure enough, as we walked into the lecture hall, we saw the Curious George apparatus set up. We took a seat towards the back and waited.
One thing that freshmen often don’t understand about college: The professors could really give a fuck what you do. It’s very unlike high school during which teachers will get on your case for talking in class, not doing homework, etc. In college, you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want in class, as long as it’s not so over the top disruptive that the professor feels like he has to do something about it.
So as the freshmen physics students sat in class, they kept nervously glancing at the stoner-type dudes in the back of the room from whom emitted a non-stop stream of very audible wise-assery.
“Hey, I wonder if the prof has ever been laid?”
“Yeah, I think he’s married. He probably lectures his wife on the coefficient of friction before he lubes her up.”
“Man, I am fucking high!”
The freshmen didn’t know better yet, and so we entertained ourselves by freaking them out until the demonstration began. After explaining what he was about to do, he walked over to the blowgun and began a countdown.
“Oh boy, this is gonna be fucking great,” I said to B’Homey, as the two of us tried to keep our giggles somewhat quiet.
“Three… Two… One…” Click! Whizz! Thump!
“YES! TAKE THAT, CURIOUS GEORGE!”
“DIE, YOU FURRY CHIMP BASTARD!”
I don’t think I’ve ever had a more pleasurable physics class, and to judge by the people around us, they enjoyed it too.
I had another class that was a lot of fun. It was a very difficult class to get into, which is odd because the class was Classic Civilizations. What made it appealing was that the professor would dress up as various Roman and Greek deities and act out the myths we were supposed to be learning. Also appealing was the fact that the lecture took place in a 2,500 seat auditorium, and so you could get stoned in the balcony while Zeus stormed around on stage, throwing fluorescent light bulb tubes around to great effect. I was far from the only person to engage in this behavior. From the stage, the professor probably wondered if there was some sort of viral cough going around.
Being on drugs in class was fairly common. Actually consuming drugs in class was a little more out-there, but in a large auditorium it wasn’t something that anyone worried about too much. A couple of friends of mine, though, managed to top everyone else by dropping acid during a final. Our university had three hour long finals, which almost everyone agreed was way too fucking long (most universities had moved to two hour finals). So professors commonly gave a final that was designed to be completed in two hours, but gave you all three hours so you could check your work, etc.
I shared a math class with a couple of guys I partied on and off with, Jason and Randy. As the final for this class was their last final of the semester, Jason and Randy decided that they would start their summer off with a bang. They would take the final, and after two hours were up they’d each surreptitiously take a blotter hit of acid. Since acid usually takes 45 minutes to an hour to start kicking in, they figured that this would give them time to check their work and allow them to turn in the final and start tripping immediately afterwards.
I knew that they were doing this ahead of time, and noticed them look at each other at the two hour mark, nod, and slip a hit of acid in between their cheek and gum. I didn’t see them again until later that night when I dropped by their place. When I asked how their trip went, they burst out laughing.
“Go ahead, tell him,” said Jason.
“Well,” said Randy, “I didn’t think the final was too hard, but there was one problem that totally stumped me. So after I’d taken the acid, I kept at it, figuring maybe I’d get some partial credit. All of a sudden, with about fifteen minutes left, the answer came to me. So I wrote it down.”
“Yeah,” said Jason, “and as we turned in our finals, I asked the prof about that question because I didn’t know how to do it either. So I guess to refresh his memory, he picked up Randy’s exam to look at the question, and on a fucking math final, there’s Randy’s answer: three dense paragraphs of writing, with the words starting off microscopically small, and by the end the letters were an inch high.”
“Holy shit,” said Randy, struggling to keep from falling over with laughter, “I have no fucking idea what I wrote, but I bet it was totally fucking nuts. I was tripping balls.”
I especially liked Psychology, although not for the class, which I always blew off. I liked the Psychology labs. The way Psych labs worked was this: Graduate students would come up with some harebrained experiment, and undergraduates would have no choice but to serve as guinea pigs because the experiments were part of their “lab work” and participation would count towards your grade.
Normally I wouldn’t appreciate being made an unwilling participant to some Sigmund Freud wannabe’s idea of a deeply illuminating experiment, especially since it was always held at 7:00 PM on a crucial party night (Tuesday). But the psych lab was held across the street from a bar I liked, and as it turned out, fucking with psych grad students was great fun after consuming a dozen drinks.
For instance, I would walk into the lab room and see three grad students sitting behind a table. The room would absolutely reek like pizza, I mean, like Chef Boyardee and Mama Celeste had just gotten it on in there. I’d sit down across from the grad students, and they’d ask me questions.
“How do you feel?” they’d ask.
“Not hungry, that’s for sure.”
“Really? You don’t feel hungry?”
“Nope. As a matter of fact, I was hungry before, but as soon as I walked in here, I lost my appetite.”
The grad students would exchange glances and jot down some notes.
“Actually, I do feel something else, come to think of it.”
“Yes?” they’d ask, pencils at the ready.
“Yeah, I feel really thirsty, like I could drink fifteen beers. Can I go now?”
One time a fellow partier and I were assigned the same lab. We loaded up on drinks and went over there to find a grad student with a deck of cards awaiting us. “This experiment is simple,” he started. “I will flip over the cards one by one, but before I flip each card over, you guess what that card is going to be, ok? This will be fun! All right, here we go. What’s your guess?”
“Four of clubs,” I said without hesitation.
“Nope, ace of hearts. Let’s try again.”
“Four of clubs,” said my friend.
“Hmmm, no. Three of diamonds. Remember, you’re trying to determine the next card, which means there’s probably a pattern.”
“Gotcha,” I replied. “Four of clubs.”
We went through half the deck guessing the four of clubs every time, the grad student getting more and more upset as it became apparent that we weren’t really trying. Finally, the four of clubs came up. “Yes! The four of clubs! Ok, now, what’s your next guess?”
“Four of clubs.”
If the goal of the experiment was to see how soon you could reduce a grad student to tears, I’d say it was a success. The next semester, a psych lab went wrong when a blindfolded girl was accidentally walked off a ledge overlooking a sunken garden at the front of the psych building, breaking her arm. I like to think about what happened next.
“You crazy fucker, you walked me off of a goddamn ledge!”
“Yes, but how do you feel about that?”
I had a chemistry TA (teaching assistant) who didn’t like me for a couple of reasons: First of all, I was obviously a pot head. He figured this out during class one day when he drew a chemical structure on the chalkboard and commented that it, “is remarkably similar to the chemical structure for the drug morphine. I should mention that I have a real problem with drugs.”
“Woo-hoo!” I said loudly before I could catch myself.
The TA stared daggers at me before icily saying, “What I mean to say is that I do not approve of drug use or those that abuse drugs.”
“Oh.” I said.
The second reason he disliked me was because every weekend for the rest of the semester, if I was wasted in public, I’d run across the TA. I’d be stumbling along the main drag, bow-legged drunk, and I’d see my chemistry TA putting gas in his car. Or I’d be so stoned that you could blindfold me with dental floss, and I’d run across the TA in line at the student union cafeteria. It became a running gag, and one that got funnier and funnier after I stopped going to class, although the TA didn’t seem too terribly amused.
Showing up for a mid-term (wearing a purple tie-dye and a pot-leaf earring), I was handed an exam by my TA who was none too happy to see me. “I thought you dropped the class,” he said, slowly looking me up and down. “How well do you think you’re going to do on this exam?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but I hope its a short one, because I’m going out drinking after I’m done.”
I felt that I did pretty well on the test, so I made a point to show up to the next class. He handed the tests back individually, saying things like, “Nice job”, or “You’re getting the hang of it” as he did so. When he came across my test, he flung it at me from ten feet away. I got a B.
I had another TA who took a dislike to me, this time in math. Math always came rather easily to me, even when it got pretty goofy. (Rotate a parabola in n dimensions? Why?) But I took a high-level math course that represented the mathematical wall I could not climb. I took that class two times, each time bombing the second exam so severely that I dropped the class to avoid getting an F. The third time through was exactly the same. I had a high A after the first test, and after the second test I was failing. (Seriously, my grade on that second test was an exercise in negative integer theory.)
The TA pulled me aside and rather haughtily asked me if I planned on trying at all on the next test. “This is the third time I’ve taken this class. I don’t know what it is about this stuff, but I’m not getting it. It’s like it’s in a different language.”
“It is in a different language,” replied the TA. “We call that language ‘mathematics’, and…”
“Oh, fuck you!” I told him. “I didn’t fail that test to ruin your day you pompous asshole.” I walked out the door, went straight to the Dean’s office, and dropped the fucking class. He let me substitute Statistics 101 in its place. I avoided a sure F in math by picking up a Statistics class that I never attended. I may not have learned statistics that semester, but I’m pretty sure that 100% of all students who did not attend a single class got an F. I know I fucking did.
So as you can imagine, I feel conflicted when I have to dispense wisdom to my daughter about getting along with teachers and whatnot. But I sure as shit can’t tell her the truth. She’d look around the house at the TV, the computers, the car in the garage, and think to herself, “You didn’t do too bad. And you got this by not going to class and telling your teachers to fuck off?” And many years later, she’d be telling a psychologist about how her dad fucked her over when she was twelve.
“He told me about doing drugs, and ditching class, and telling his teachers to blow him, and so I thought I didn’t have to try at all, and now I’m 43 and I’m a complete mess.”
“Yes, but how do you feel about that?”
“Hungry,” she’d say. “Why does your office smell like pizza?”