Friday, November 11, 2005


Like I said before, I wasn't at school for the education, though ostensibly I was an aspiring computer science major. At Washington State you needed to be accepted into the program based on performance in non-core classes during your freshman and sophomore years, which meant a minimum grade point average far in excess of mine. My first semester at the Fiji house, I earned all of a .8 average. I was spindling out of control, and more often than not, I just stopped going to class.

The proverbial snowball was still just a flake until the day I sat in Calculus class as the professor handed out midterm exams to the students--except for me; I missed the previous class. "Oh," I thought, "this is just one of those dreams." But it wasn't. The professor wouldn't let me make it up, and I had no choice but to take it again the following semester.

Assembly language. The class could have been called How to Talk with Your Computer with Just Ones and Zeros. If it sounds complicated, you're not alone. I was on my second iteration through the class, and determined not to fall behind again. We had to build over the course of the semester what is called a compiler, which converts a computer language into binary, or the ones and zeros that the computer understands. Not only that, but we were inventing the computer language too, and the work we did each class depended on the combined work from all previous classes. So if you fell behind, or did badly on an early portion of the project, you were guaranteed to be exponentially worse off as time bore mercilessly on.

"What was that?" I blurted a little too loudly as I popped my head up. Drool had started to run down my chin into a dropper-sized pool on the desk. In a smooth motion, so as not to attract attention to it, I ran my chin along my shoulder and wiped it off on the way up.

The teacher was staring at me impatiently. "I asked you to explain to me what a FIFO stack is."

"Ok, I know this one." I ran my fingers through my hair like Jim from Taxi.

She looked disgusted and pointed to a girl sitting behind me. "Terri, can you answer the question for our sleeping friend?"

"First In First Out," Terri said.

And so another semester of Assembler was ruined. My school loan would last me through the rest of that year, and with my sub-arctic GPA, it wouldn't be granted for the next.

At the Fiji house, I had what was called a Big Brother, somebody that I was supposed to look to for guidance. I don't remember his name if you can believe that, but he was very excited the day our names were put together. He wanted to help me, wanted to integrate me into the house, but his enthusiasm had its limits. He told me happily that my skirmish with two house members in the sleeping porch came to nothing.

"Don't worry," he said, "the members of the house have talked about it and have decided that you did nothing wrong."

"How very generous of them," I said. He looked at me with dawning surprise.

"It could have gone badly you know," he said. "It's serious business when pledges tangle with members."

"I don't give two shits what the members think. Right is right, and I don't need them to do my thinking for me."

A month later I was in his room to give him the news.

"Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I de-pledged."

"I see," he said.

"Sorry, I know you tried with me, but I'm not put together for this business. I can't take the bullshit."

"It's funny, but I know what you mean."

I should have just left, but for some reason, I felt bad that I had let him down personally. I patted him on the shoulder. "Listen, you're still my big brother, ok?"

A wry smile curled up the side of his mouth. The lie reflected back at me from his eyes, and the elastic of my tee shirt felt conspicuously tight as he stared. On the other end of the gulf that sprang between us, he turned his back without a word.


jenbeauty said...

Best thing you could have done during college. I think being in a fraternity is much more difficult than a sorority. Although, I had my ups and downs too. I think within any group there is always a holier than thou crowd, or the crowd that is so gung ho about Greek life. There is a fine line between everything, some days I did not tow the line and am happy I did not.

Scott said...

I think for you the Greek life was easier than for others, just as high school was easy for you too. Some people are wired different, and I had a lot of problems with authority and any sort of organization at all. The house wasn't really that bad, I just can give an inch of myself for the collective.

Sadie Lou said...

I would have never tried to fit in at a sorority. I'm just not "one of those girls". In fact, female back stabbing and ridiculous fighting really leaves me cold. I prefer male companionship...

Tee said...

Awh, the ending made me sad - but that's how those things work - you either belong or you don't, I guess.

I love the drool part. I can't count how many times that happend to me in high school.

Eve said...

I'm really enjoying these stories. I had problems in high school to, but it was more a "B" list versus "A" listers. I never really fit in. Never made the honor lists. I actually blossomed intellectually in college. It felt strange to suddenly realize that I wasn't stupid. I'm not saying this to brag, just explain the college experience for me - suddenly I was making Dean's List and President's Scholar and the girl who was told she was stupid her entire life suddenly wasn't. I loved college and could have stayed there forever if the money hadn't run out.

Mrs.T said...

woosh.. I had a hard enough time in school... that whole life would have been horrible for me

magnetbabe said...

I'm glad you obviously made the right decision. I remember being in classes and silently rolling my eyes at the hung-over frat boys just concerned about making grades good enough to keep partying another year. Also, I took one programming class: a Fortran 91 class. I've never been good at programming and I didn't really like the class. I got an A though. I dated my lab partner, who happened to be a computer scienc major. Coincidence? Decide for yourself.

The Zombieslayer said...

Assembly language. The class could have been called How to Talk with Your Computer with Just Ones and Zeros. If it sounds complicated, you're not alone.

heh. I dropped out of Comp Sci before taking Assembly and glad I did. Caught the tail end of the internet boom and lost thousands in the internet bust. I used to live in Magnolia, not too far from your school.

Assembly to me looked painfully boring. So I got as good in Unix as I possibly could and took off to Seattle to make some money without finishing the degree.

Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

I cannot associate the word 'Pledge' with anything other than the ever popular furniture polish that forever dominates the wood varnish charts over here.

I thought this post was going to be about carpentry until I gave it a good read.

jenbeauty said...

Meh...Greek life gets such a bad rep sometimes. At smaller schools I have found most of the Soroities can do a lot of good. It can also do a lot of damage. I guess your correct about how some are wired Scott.

Things were never really that easy for me, specifically college. I was always an underdog kind of girl. Never one for cliques so it is funny that I joined KD. But I really liked the girls and it was loads of fun for a time.

I also think it depends on how each University handles its Greeks. If they have tight reins it can really have a great impact on campus life. I guess I just lucked out that some of the years while I attended college we had great people in the Greek life.

mr. schprock said...

"On the other end of the gulf that sprang between us, he turned his back without a word."

He's what I call a "guilter." If he's a dad now, he's probably an expert in making his kids feel like crap.

Scott said...

Sadie - Read Jen's latest response to me. I have painted a rather one-sided view. It's not all bad, and neither was my experience. I have a few hot buttons that inevitably are always pushed.

Tee - Ah yes, the drool. For me it was always about the drool.

Mrs T - Maybe, maybe not. You may have made some real connections.

MB - Yeah, I had the same visceral reaction to hung over fratboys. For some reason though, curiosity and the need for change gets the better of me.

Zombie - I finally mastered the class at a different college. I will probably blog about it later when I pick up the thread.

UTMG - Ha!

Jen - Exactly. The house could have been a wonderful experience for me if I had chosen to let it be.

Mr Schprock - Good observation. He really did have the guilt thing down, because until that point I had no reservations about my decision. I hope you're wrong about his kids.