Monday, September 28, 2020

E-Dorm Life- Social Life Vs Slapstick

When I left RPI, the listed ratio was 4:1 male to female.  When I started, it was 7:1.

These published ratios left out a fact we discovered by accident when Erika, who did the radio show the morning after ours, didn’t show up to participate in an on-air play we did... 
the night we decided last minute that we were actually doing it. 

She was an architecture major; therefore we went to the Green Building after the show to see what happened.  Our group consisted of three seniors and a junior.  As I will demonstrate shortly, we had a pretty good idea of the female population of our school.

We walked through the Green Building as it approached Two AM in a daze and each of us started saying the same thing, in awe.

“There are women here I have never seen before.”

What the published ratios did not take into account was that half the architecture majors were female, and none of the architecture majors ever left the Green Building.

In summary, women were scarce.

Yes, embarrassing geeky jokes were made referencing gravitational pull and door shapes, but that was mostly to hide many of our inability to talk to women at all due to lack of: 
self-esteem, and 
positive mental image. 

The sad part is I was in decent to excellent shape for most of college, but my self-image was tied back to my chunky, waste of space high school days. By the time mental me caught up it was well past graduation where I had gotten out of shape again…repeating the cycle.

The women at school were like a cross section of any location…it’s just there weren’t many of them.

In fact, between my workload, extracurricular activities, the limited number of options and total lack of experience and confidence, the number of times I worked up the nerve to formally phone a girl and ask her out on an official date in college was exactly one.

I had given her a lift home to New Jersey a week before, but felt weird asking her out at sixty miles an hour with no escape route.  This is why I waited about a week after we returned via separate means.  As evidence that the universe loves to give me comedy material and not much else, in the middle of my phone call, her dorm had a fire drill, requiring her to hang up on me and evacuate.  I had to call her back later to get rejected.
I’d soon learn in multiple psychology classes that was textbook negative reinforcement.

Aside- Yes, we all had landline phones in each room, because there were no cell phones back in the cave man times. The internal system assigned a four-digit number to each room, which ensured internal campus calls free of charge.  Our phone in the big room ensured we lived in a Steven Wright routine.  In order to call for telecommunications’ service, one would dial “7777.” 
Our phone had a broken “7” button.

I am fully aware there were a fair amount of guys who had the skills and self-worth to do quite well for themselves on the dating scene both on campus and at nearby schools.  

To them I say:

Bite me.

The scarcity led to a nomenclature similar to TV show episode naming. This was not objectification, it merely reflected the limited number of women on campus, and how they were immediately recognizable even if you didn’t know them personally.  

I can state, however, that I did meet several of them.

“The one who reads cool sci-fi books in the dining hall and under the trees in the Quad.”
Meeting- She and I talked here and there crossing paths on the way to classes and at meal times. I knew her name, (but don't now) knew she wrote an impressive letter to the editor of the newspaper, and knew she liked my comedy violence t-shirts…
Because her boyfriend had ones just like them.  Dang.

“The one who comes into Sage dining hall with her motorcycle helmet.”
Meeting- Eating in the dining hall with a different group than I usually did, my entire table stopped talking and stared at her and her friend when they walked in.  She thought it was both funny and sad (correct on both counts), and sat at the table with us for a bit. I was one of the only ones with the confidence to recover brain function quickly enough to start up a brief conversation…and that is all you need to know about the general confidence levels of the male population of RPI at the time.

“The one with the curly hair who rents the bowling shoes in the union arcade.”
Meeting- We spoke several times. I believe I said, “Size twelve, please.”

In my specific case, there was “The one in my 400 level Psychology of Motivation class.”  
I almost had a minor in psych.  I was one class short, but in my last semester, I couldn’t fit it in my schedule, and took a ridiculously dull astronomy elective. In that course the professor used us to proofread his book. There’s nothing like a memorization based class with a textbook full or typos.  Therefore, now I can get fairly deep into a psychological discussion, before pausing and staring off into space.

Due to a series of coincidental events that ended up causing me a dazzling amount of pain on two occasions, (establishing a precedent for this sort of thing in my life) I did know her name, and still remember it- Kris.  This class needs a couple more asides before I reach those stories though.

Aside 1- This professor paid me two of the greatest compliments in my life.

One I’ve mentioned before: looking at my comedy violence t-shirt and Mickey Mouse sneakers he stated, “Most people are a little off, but you’re two or three standard deviations from the mean in both directions.”

The second one I haven’t mentioned:  Professor Noble was talking about using the proper psychological tools and said, “You wouldn’t use classical music in a stereo war.”
I responded with, “I find Wagner to be highly effective.”
He took a step back, pointed at me and said, “This is a very dangerous man.”

Aside 2-  Professor Noble was out one day and asked a professor from the much more liberal and artsy SUNY Albany to take his place.  The chapter we were on concerned feelings, and after giving us an excellent lecture on the subject, there was still fifteen minutes of class remaining.  She told us all we were free to use the remaining time to break up into groups and talk about emotions.  As if on command, the entire class stared blankly at her, rose as one, and left the lecture hall.  She stammered a bit and called out, “Doesn’t anyone want to discuss their feelings?”  I stopped on the stairs and answered, “We’re engineers…having feelings would be a professional liability,” and rejoined the exiting crowd.

Back to the young woman, and embarrassing myself-

I first noticed her at the end of class one day when she stood up, draped her light brown scarf over her pink sweater, removed her large framed glasses and pulled out her ponytail holder …

In perfect cinematic slow motion.

A sunbeam chose that exact moment to spotlight directly on her through the window, illuminating her golden hair like a halo as it cascaded down and added an extra sparkle to her eyes.

I’m fairly certain a hair metal band in the Quad started playing a power ballad at that point.

It turned out she lived on the same floor of the Quad as Kumar, a friend of mine. The three of us were all part of a large group in the Sage Dining Hall for lunch one day eventually leading to one of my injuries. However, first I learned she had tuned into my WRPI radio show the night before.  Due to my always staggeringly perfect timing, she switched it on exactly in the middle of the “Cowboys and Indians” set when the “Red Man Red” song from Peter Pan came on and turned it off again immediately.  Sometimes my quests for finding three songs that belonged together went to weird places and valued catchiness over social acceptance.

Kumar started lamenting the fact that the end of intramural soccer season was a while ago and he was feeling out of shape. He asked if anyone would come running with him that afternoon.

Let it be noted here that while I had started weight lifting regularly freshman year, and reached a level of acceptably defined beefiness, standing still was (and is) my forte. I did not, never had, and lacked any inclinations to run.

Yet, with her sitting a mere two chairs away, and having seen her at breakfast a couple times after she returned from ROTC morning exercise training,  I found myself answering him. The unnatural tone I used was several octaves below my normal range, sounding somewhere between Tim Allen at his most enthusiastic and a ‘roided out Link Hogthrob,

I met him later in the ’87 Gym, which was ancient (’87 as in “1887”) and had a severely banked plywood track with a thin rubber overlay suspended over a basketball court. The short length (eighteen laps to a mile) meant I was in a continual state of turning and ankle bending the whole time.

The best (and I use a term loosely once more) sneakers I owned were a pair of two-year-old, already threadbare, Chuck Taylor high tops with pictures of the Joker on them.

After not quite three quarters of an hour trying to keep up with him, and constantly assuring him that I was not, in fact, dying, my feet felt like a side of beef that had gone twelve rounds with Rocky Balboa.  I was afraid to sit down; figuring I’d never get up again, and knew the amount of force required to press a gas or brake pedal for driving would cause me to pass out.  It was fortunate my feet hurt so much, as it let me ignore the searing pain in my lungs and hammering heartbeat.

Therefore, I limped and dragged myself several blocks to the Payless Shoes in the Price Chopper shopping center and bought a pair of new running sneakers.  I had long passed exercising to impress women by this point. Instead, my thoughts were along the lines of, “If I don’t get in better shape, if I ever need to escape something I’m going to die before whatever it is catches me.”   This mentality ended up coming in handy in years that are more recent as well.

Another Aside- I became a regular runner, at least twice a week. Granted my form was more of a controlled lope instead of anything proper, leading Phil to inform me I should run with  a cape on.  It also led to other embarrassing injuries detailed in the early days of blogging.  Still, I maintain my health, and it was great to clear my mind.  After taking the eight hour Engineer In Training exam, my folks called to see how I did, and Jesse had to inform them, "He came home and went straight out to go running...I think the test drove him insane."

Since my life is an endless source of comedy material, later that same semester I was surprised by a knock at my giant dorm room’s door.  The surprise was because no one knocked. Either you knew who was coming and left the door open or no one was coming since it was a dorm room.

I answered it and THERE SHE WAS!!!

We’ve already established there’s no way in hell I said anything suave, sophisticated, or marginally coherent.  Frankly, it was impressive I learned Kris worked at the alumni house with our neighbor Jeremy (the Virgo with the tiny room), was passing by on the way to work and would wait for him on the stairs just outside both of our doors.

As I feverishly tried to think of anything clever…or English for that matter…to use for initiation of a conversation, the phone rang. It was my dinner order being delivered downstairs.

I very subtlety yelled loud enough to be heard in the hallway, 
(Referencing the class we shared, for those  with a worse short term memory than me.)

There was an air of musicality to her laugh as I rushed out into the hall to pass her and get my food…

As I rushed out into the hall, with only socks on my feet, to pass her and get my food…

As I rushed out into the hall, with only socks on my feet and my attention focused completely on her, to pass her and get my food...

As I rushed out into the hall, with only socks on my feet and my attention focused completely on her, to pass her and pass through the inevitable puddle coming out of the bathroom on the tile floor to get my food...

As I rushed out into the hall, with only socks on my feet and my attention focused completely on her, to pass her and pass through the inevitable puddle coming out of the bathroom on the tile floor and lost any and all friction between my feet and those tiles leading to a high speed, uncontrolled, sliding run, face first, directly into a brick wall at maximum force and velocity.

There was quite a bit more laughter, with considerably less musicality, as I peeled myself free collected my food and dragged myself back into my room. 

The advantage of effectively killing any chance to impress her, was- It was nice to be able to maintain a normal conversation on the occasions we'd be in the same locations or groups around campus for the rest of the time we were both there.


longbow said...

We want an entry about how Jane used you for your extensive art history knowledge and not your body.

Jeff McGinley said...

I already mentioned her in my "Guide to enjoying Art at the MET" post and didn't want to rehash.

But I should probably point out part of her decision in that area may have beenbased on her standing at the North dorm door to let me in with my art notebook, and seein0 and hearing you leap out of your section of the E-Dorms to block my way yelling, "On behalf of all victims of "using the geek" BE STRONG JEFF, DON'T GO!"

Although most of her decision was probably a combination of me laughing when she thought Calvin and Hobbes were painters and being in competition with a more major related geek being used in the computer lab that night.

Thanx for reading, and reminding.