With a cup of coffee to my left, Monday morning beckons, the day after I worked the annual "Open House" event at my university. I was surprisingly upbeat when I dragged myself to the office yesterday. I lapsed only briefly, snapping at a co-worker for giving me a series of tasks to do without saying "Good Morning" first. I must admit, it was pretty repugnant of me to lower myself to concerns over formal propriety. She was actually quite stressed, as volunteers who promised to help her set up the information tables didn't show. Perhaps there were too many Halloween parties and their after effects to absorb. Imagining careful disguises, these invisible volunteers were able to perform- in the purest sense of Comedia dell'Arte- a one act play of seduction that ignored their deficiencies of personality and appearance, bedding an object of affection in a rapture of rambling drunken confessions, sloppy coitus, and later, regret. Sleeping past the moment when they could realistically perform perfunctory acts of personal hygiene and stagger onto Campus, they chose instead not to diminish the glow of the preceding evening in their wretched state. Regardless of the reason, they failed to show and my co-worker was left to do most of the work herself. For my theatrical part, I was prepared to take the stage to inform inquisitive parents and their children about the programs we offer. Ever the serious actor, such lowly requests were too much for my ego to bear, hence the reproachment. How precious of me. I also informed a tour guide with a full audience that giving a seminar to Psychology students ( one she attended) should never include jokes at the beginning, middle, or end of the presentation. Another cheap shot, again unwarranted. Maybe I was resentful at having to skip a day of rest.
I love watching the dynamics between generations - when two parents are present I am curious about how their mix of genes created the child that stands before me, not quite ready for adulthood, but ready to leave their juvenile adolescence and the insipid politics of high school behind them. One frequently notices the oddest of contradictions - the face of the mother and the personality of the father - a dangerous mix as it can yield irrational expectations. I met future students who will not survive the Residence experience and will be targeted as aloof or weird by their fellow students. I also met those who will glide into their new academic environment as if a room had been reserved for them at birth, a consolation prize for slicing the umbilical cord. We had many student volunteers who did show - I remember many of them when they first began their studies. They too were a wide eyed with expectations, some of which were met, may of which were not. Victims of broken relationships, poor program choices, social awkwardness, and administrative red tape, they will leave this school shortly, older and more cynical. I wonder how we failed them - I promise a lot at these orientation events - the classic carnival barker and huckster salesman ready to sell you a good Banlon shirt from the trunk of my finned Chevy. I always tell students not to give their parents more news than they can handle - I do the same thing when trying not to damper the enthusiasm they have about attending university, especially ours. Still, there is little regret. Life is not simple and even amidst the burled wood, oil paintings, and polished brass work of the venue for this event. There is still some tarnish that you might as well learn to overlook.