College Twilight Zone

By the

March 1, 2001

I’m a believer in equilibrium: Nature abhors a vacuum. People never change. The pendulum swings back and forth. My faith in stasis, however, doesn’t prevent me from having an existential crisis every time I have to make a decision. Four years ago, choosing a college satisfied my need to debate inconsequential “pluses” and “minuses” of schools with myself and anyone who would listen, or who at least was too slow to run away from me.

Once I got past my decision and gained a degree of perspective on the choice I had made, I concluded that it didn’t really matter where I spent my undergraduate years. My life would be approximately the same had I gone elsewhere; the crossroads I had perceived as divergent merged in the distance.

Recently, however, I took a trip to New Orleans to visit a friend from high school who attends Tulane. After the trip, I wondered if individuals’ lives are as stable as I often think they are. After a long weekend with my friend Allison in the Big Easy, I questioned if where one is can affect who one becomes. The following are possible ways in which my life might be different if my weekend at Tulane had metamorphosed into four years:

No longer actively choosing to wear thong underwear.

Allison has a few friends who work as cocktail waitresses in strip clubs. One night, we visited her friend Hillary at one such club called Rick’s. Hillary’s uniform is a thong leotard and tights. This outfit made her look extraordinarily conservative next to strippers who opted out of the “leotard” part of the thong leotard. It’s amazing how seeing naked women writhing on men’s laps becomes ordinary when you’re suddenly thrust into a room with dozens of them. As incongruous as Hillary and the other semi-clothed cocktail waitresses looked, they did not prevent Allison and me from feeling completely out of place in our torso-covering bar-hopping garb. I’ve never had such a strong desire to rip off my pants while in a room packed with naked women and men shuffling past pictures of their wives and children to locate their credit cards.

Goodbye resume-building activities; hello sugar daddies.

Allison and the dozen or so people she introduced me to are employed during the academic year. Although not all of them had found jobs that combined alcohol with naked girls, most of them had been able to at least find work in alcohol-dependent industries. I met more cocktail waitresses and bartenders that weekend than I encountered men wearing plastic tits. For those of us who have woken up with hangovers and empty wallets, we know that drunks don’t make the best accountants. A drunk’s loss is generally an employee’s gain. Throughout the weekend, one of the Rick’s veterans gave a new Rick’s employee pointers on making the job financially worthwhile: She should sit on customers’ laps, confront patrons about low tips and follow around drunken strippers, waiting for them to drop “dance dollars.” At a value of $25 apiece, dance dollars make a night of trailing drunken strippers a noble activity. The thought of earning $150 a night by smiling at a few old men or sniffing out fallen bills makes unpaid internships look drastically less appealing.

I wouldn’t steal, but it doesn’t really matter because I would be dead.

I learned only two lessons from my childhood: One, don’t steal; two, don’t drive drunk. In regards to the latter, I don’t like to overgeneralize, so although I won’t drive after having a sip of alcohol, I will get into a car with a driver who has had a few drinks. In a lot of ways New Orleans reminded me of Ireland, where I studied abroad last year. One major similarity was that everyone drives drunk all the time. New Orleans appears to be a well-populated city, so obviously not everyone dies in drunk-driving accidents. I have a suspicion, though, that I would be one of the less fortunate ones. I would be the person who refuses to drive drunk, but gets killed in a drunk-driving accident anyway. Score one for Team Irony.

One of the many lessons I didn’t learn.

There are few things that I have less resistance to than free alcohol. My overexcitement at intoxication without payment is a reaction I might have had to quell had I gone to Tulane. One afternoon, while at a bar, Allison pointed out a group of guys from a fraternity that Tulane no longer officially recognizes. The reason for Tulane’s decision was ostensibly because the fraternity did not properly register a party. The real reason, however, is that a group of brothers roofied and gang-raped a girl during a house party. Allison told me the story of a party she went to at their fraternity house during her first year at Tulane. She and another first-year student were drinking when one of their older sorority sisters came up to them, took their drinks and poured them out. “We don’t take drinks unless we’ve seen where they came from,” was her advice. I don’t think I would have been so easily convinced.

  • * *

Thank God I chose to attend Georgetown instead of another, more depraved institution in a city that thrives on the exploitation of people’s bad habits and self-destruction. It’s wonderful to be in a good Catholic school in a pristine, sin-free city. We now even have a mayor that doesn’t smoke crack! My musings on going to a place other than Georgetown have proven to me that, had I chosen a minutely different course in life, I would be either naked (more often than currently) or dead. Instead, I attend an institution where people keep their thong underwear hidden under their Bebe skirts, drinking is always done in responsible moderation, those who do indulge in the occasional beer use the clean and safe public transit system, and college boys always treat college girls with the utmost respect.

Whew. That was a close one.

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