(October 2020. Another interlude: blog awards.)

Friends… I promise there will be an actual post up in the next couple of days. I know what the next two episodes will be about, for sure.

I’m having a pretty great weekend so far. Something really awesome happened at work on Friday involving some meaningful compliments from someone whose path crossed mine at my job in the past. And that reminds me, in case you’re new here, one topic I do not discuss on WordPress is what kind of work I do. I’ve been in this same career since I graduated from UJ, and later on I will have a lot of stories to tell about my process of considering future careers. So I’m basically just helping you avoid spoilers.


Bekah (who hasn’t written anything in a while, what happened to you?) nominated me for the Brainstorms Award. Thank you!
https://brainsstorms.wordpress.com/2020/06/02/introducing-the-brainstorms-award/

The rules:

Thank the one who nominated you
Tag your post with #BrainStormsAward and follow BrainStorms if you are willing!
Display the BrainStorms Award logo.
Talk a bit about your blog, why you started it, what you write on and your goal for your blog.
Answer the five questions you have been asked
Nominate five other amazing bloggers
Ask them five new questions

Don’t Let The Days Go By is an episodic continuing story set in 1995 (so far) about a university student trying to make his way in life. I have been writing DLTDGB for almost two years now, since December 2018. It is based on my actual past, and I borrowed the title without permission from a line from a song popular at the time. If you have several hours to spare, you can start from the beginning and read the whole story.

I will be answering your questions in character from 1995.

  1. What is your most precious memory?
    Two years ago, I was a senior in high school, and I had a really bad day. It wasn’t anything serious, just friend drama and a general feeling of not fitting in. But my friend Jessica saw me sitting outside upset and talked to me for a while. She invited me to go to McDonald’s with her and her sister and another girl. I wasn’t used to people actually being nice to me like that. (Jessica is the one who went to Guatemala after high school, I’ve mentioned her before.)
  2. Where would your dream vacation place be?
    I’ve met a lot of girls on the Internet whom I would want to go out with if I didn’t live so far away. So my dream vacation would be to go visit one of them.
  3. Do you like to sing or play an instrument?
    I played piano in elementary school for a few years, but I quit. I don’t like singing or playing music in front of people. My friend Danielle sings in the University Chorus and in the choir at our church, and she keeps telling me I should sing with them; she’s heard me sing at church and she says they always need guys. Last week she reminded me when church choir practice is… I don’t know, but I told her I’d think about it. [I did eventually start singing at church, which I wrote about after I answered Bekah’s questions… hmm, looks like that happened exactly 25 years ago today.]
  4. If you had to live in a different country, which country would it be?
    I’ve never really thought about living somewhere else. I’m inclined to think I would want to be somewhere that people speak English, so I can communicate.
  5. What is your favorite thing to do?
    That’s a hard one, because it changes depending on what mood I’m in. Lately it’s been riding my bike.

Prutha nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award. Thank you!
This award was originally created by Okoto @ Okoto Enigma’s Blog.

Rules
Put the award logo/image on your blog [I lost it, I don’t feel like looking for it now]
List the rules.
Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
Answer the questions asked by your nominator
Nominate people
Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question
Share a link to your best post(s)

Answering in character from 1995.

3 things about myself:
I have gotten an A in every math class and every science class I have taken, going back at least as far as middle school.
I have never been in a different time zone.
I am the oldest of two brothers. I was in kindergarten when my brother was born.

Who is your current favourite artist or band?
Hard to say; I like a lot of music that doesn’t really go together. I got really into Pink Floyd last year when their Division Bell album came out; I’ve been listening to a lot of their heyday stuff too. I’ve listened to R.E.M. a lot the last few years too. And as for recently emerging artists, I got the Cracked Rear View CD by Hootie and the Blowfish last month for my birthday, and I’ve listened to it so many times.

How has blogging helped you grow as a person?
It’s 1995. What’s a blog? That word hasn’t been invented yet. (Answering as an adult: it has helped me look back on a meaningful time in my life and think about the lessons I’ve learned over the years.)

How many books have you read so far this year?
I read more than usual this year, and I haven’t been counting. Probably at least 10 for pleasure. And I’m a university student, so I read a lot of textbooks.

Tell us about the last movie you watched.
I don’t even remember the last movie I watched. I watched Quiz Show at the second-run theater on campus in the spring; that was probably the last time I saw a movie on a big screen. It was a true story about a game show in the 1950s that was fixed; the producers gave the contestant the questions and answers beforehand because he was a likeable figure who would draw a lot of viewers. [In the time since this award nomination a few months ago and the current present moment of the story, I also saw Batman Forever on campus.]

What languages are you fluent in?
Just English, although I know Spanish well enough to get by. There are a lot of Spanish speakers here in the western USA.

Bhagyashree nominated me for the Vincent Ehindero Blogger Award
THE RULES:
Thank the person that nominated you with a link to their blog
Make a post of the award (with photo)
Post the rules
Ask 5-10 questions of your choice
Nominate 10-30 other bloggers (or more) and notify them.
Follow Vincent Ehindero @ vincentehindero.wordpress.com (to qualify for free blog promotion and shoutout) and more blogging opportunities

MY QUESTIONS:
I’m going to answer as an adult, because most of the great answers I can think of happened after 1995.

Is there a cheesy movie you secretly love to watch?
It’s not a secret, I don’t really make secrets of cheesy movies I love, but… Orange County. In 2002, when this movie was new, I passed up a chance to see it on the big screen with someone I knew. The ads I’d seen made it look like just another dumb teen stoner flick; I was 25 and felt like I had outgrown that kind of comedy. A few months later, when it was first released on DVD, my brother, who was 20 and loved all those dumb comedies, asked me to watch it with him when I was visiting my family back home. I instantly fell in love with the movie. The teen stoner culture is just the backdrop; it’s really a very relatable story about a confused kid who can’t wait to break free from his dysfunctional family and hometown, but learns some important things about life along the way.

What is the funniest thing you have seen a stranger do?
Stranger 1: (checks to make sure his phone keypad is locked)
Stranger 2: Dude, why do you always make sure to lock your phone? Do you butt-dial people a lot?
Stranger 1: Last week I butt-ordered something off Amazon.
Stranger 2: (laughs) What did you order?
Stranger 1: A One Direction CD.

What would you choose; an act of chivalry with your favorite hero or a chance to read the personal diary of your most loved villain?
Both would be intriguing, but I’m going to go with hero. Reading the thoughts of a villain would be too dark.

Which is the one thing (item) you never share with anyone?
Underwear.

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you come across an amazing blog?
I wonder if the author is as cool in real life as the blog is.

Which is your spirit comic character?
Superman, because people say I look like him.

How would you describe your blogging journey so far in three words?
Introspective, nostalgic, friendly.

Joshua nominated me for the Outstanding Blogger Award
Provide the link to the creator’s original post. Outstanding Blogger Award by Colton Beckwith.
Answer the questions provided.
Create 7 unique questions.
Nominate 10 bloggers. Ensure that they are aware of their nomination. Neither the award’s creator, nor the blogger that nominated you, can be nominated.
At the end of 2020, every blog that ping-backs the creator’s original post will be entered to win the 2020 Outstanding Blogger Award.

1: What was the exact date when you started your blog?
December 9, 2018. (The date in my story’s timeline was July 5, 1993.) I had another blog before that (I think you followed me over from that blog) which I started in the spring of 2014, although I don’t remember the exact date. (It was May 2, I looked it up.)

2: Do you remember how you became a Christian?
I do, but I can’t tell that story here, because that will be a future blog post. But these episodes tell stories that have led up to that moment so far:
https://dontletthedaysgoby.home.blog/2019/04/14/december-2-4-1994-jeromeville-christian-fellowship-and-the-newman-center/
https://dontletthedaysgoby.home.blog/2019/08/29/march-3-1995-throwing-the-box/
https://dontletthedaysgoby.home.blog/2019/09/07/march-4-1995-friendship-is-special/
https://dontletthedaysgoby.home.blog/2020/07/23/october-14-20-1995-come-follow-me

3: What kind of music do you like?
I listen to a lot of stuff. Classic rock, 80s and 90s pop-rock, some country, some Christian music although not as much as I did in the 90s and 2000s, and some stuff that I just can’t categorize. I don’t particularly like most rap, nor do I like pop from about 1998 onwards (and about five years ago, some country music started sounding too pop for me).

4: Have you ever evangelized or passed out tracts to anybody?
Not exactly like that. I’ve done service projects and things like that.

5: What place in the world would you like to go to someday?
The world is so big, and I’m the type of person who finds anywhere that I’ve never been inherently interesting. I took a day trip to Ashwood in 2019 just to drive around and see stuff (well, there was a little more behind the trip than that); everyone hates Ashwood, but I loved it just because it was someplace I had never seen beyond the freeway. So I guess pretty much anywhere new is somewhere I’d like to go someday.

6: How often do you watch videos on YouTube?
Not very. If I’m watching something on YouTube, it’s usually because I was looking for something specific. I don’t usually get stuck down a rabbit hole of clicking on suggested videos endlessly… except sometimes if said videos are music.

7: Do you listen to songs on Spotify?
No. I do things the old fashioned way and buy my music, although these days I buy most of it digitally rather than on physical media, especially since all the used music stores around me have shut down.

That’s all… like I said, I’ll have a new episode up in a day or two. And feel free to ask me anything in the comments. Or just say hi.

Edited: I forgot that I’m supposed to nominate people and ask them new questions. I don’t like to nominate people for these, because I don’t want people to be left out, so if you want to do any of these blog awards, pick one and do it. My questions for you are:

1. Do you eat breakfast every morning? If so, what, and if not, why not?
2. What is an opinion you hold strongly that most of the people around you disagree with?
3. Have you ever seen anyone famous out in public? Tell the story. (Interpret “famous” broadly – if you’ve never seen a movie or sports star out in public, tell about a time you saw a local TV news person, or a local elected official, or maybe when you were a kid you ran into a teacher from your school shopping at the grocery store, something like that.)
4. What is something positive that has happened to you because of COVID19?
5. What is your LEAST favorite color? Everyone wants to know your favorite, but no one ever asks this.
6. What do you miss the most about childhood?
7. When you were in school, did you have a teacher/instructor/professor who you really liked, but you did not like the subject they taught? Tell me about that teacher.

If you do one of the awards that only requires 5 questions, pick any 5 from this list.

(May 2020. Blog awards and other stuff.)

It has been some time since I have written here.  Life has been busy.  I started the next episode a few days ago (it will be about moving back to Jeromeville into Las Casas apartment #124, on the weekend of September 2 & 3, 1995).  But I’ve had so many other things going on that I haven’t taken the time to sit down and really write.

I did get tagged in blog awards twice over the last couple weeks.  For you non-bloggers, a blog award is where you answer questions about yourself and nominate the authors of your favorite blogs to answer the same questions.

The first time I got tagged in one of those as this blog, I incorporated it into a regular story.  Blogs and blog awards didn’t exist in 1995, so I pretended it was a chain email that some girl I talked to on IRC sent me.  But I have been tagged several other times, and I don’t want to spend my storytelling words just writing about answering emails.  So I stopped doing posts about blog awards, although if I was specifically tagged I would always answer in a reply to that person’s post.  Also, when I have answered blog award posts in the past, I usually answer “in character” as 1995 Greg, answering as I would have answered in 1995.  However, I’m going to start asking specifically if the person who tagged me wants me to answer as 1995 Greg or as adult Greg.  Also, most of the names of people and places have been changed in my blog, so I will use those pseudonyms in the answers to my questions when applicable.

I’m going to try interrupting my usual story every few months for a post specifically to answer questions I get in blog awards and other things like that.  But I probably won’t be nominating people to do the awards.  I always feel a little self-conscious about that (because of an incident I explained in the story where I answered blog award questions before).  I know that that kind of takes away part of the blog award experience, since I don’t get to share other blogs, but I will at least share the link of the blog that nominated me.


Bekah (owlservejesus.wordpress.com/) nominated me for the Real Neat Blog Award (thank you!)

The rules:

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you
  • Answer the 10 questions the blogger gave to you
  • Nominate four bloggers who deserve the award
  • Create 10 original questions for the nominees to answer
  • Let them know they’ve been nominated

Bekah’s questions for me:  (I am answering in character, it is August 1995)

1. What is you favorite book to read?
Hmm… I don’t know, I’m not usually one to read a book more than once… I’ve been reading a lot of Stephen King lately.

2. Do you have any allergies?
Not that I know of.

3. Spring or fall?
Fall, but I prefer summer to both of those

4. What is your favorite color?
Not pink

5. What sport do you play?
I don’t. My brother got all the sports talent in our family.

6. Prefer the City or country?
City, but I’m more used to small cities than big cities.

7. What would be your dream pet to have?
Hmm……. I grew up with cats, I can’t really see myself having any other pets… I don’t think I’m going to get a pet for a while, though

8. Favorite veggie?
Corn

9. Hot cocoa, tea or coffee?
Hot cocoa

10. Favorite fruit?
Banana


Lydia (inhisserviceandlovingit.wordpress.com) nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award.  Thank you!

  1. Put the award logo on your blog
  2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  3. Mention the creator of the award (Okoto Enigmas, but the link I had didn’t work)
  4. Answers the five questions you were asked
  5. Tell the readers three things about yourself
  6. Nominate ten to twenty bloggers
  7. Notify the bloggers (tell them you nominated them) by commenting on one of their posts
  8. Ask your nominees five questions with one weird or funny one
  9. Share a link to your best posts

Lydia asked for my answers as an adult.

Three things about myself:

  • I attend a church that has a total of nine people right now.
  • I’ve been to all of the lower 48 states in the USA, but I haven’t been to Alaska or Hawaii.  (And for the record, 1995 Greg has only been to four.)
  • The longest I have ever stayed awake in one stretch was around 42 hours (but sadly, it’s because of stress and insomnia, not some great epic adventure).

Lydia’s questions:

1.  Do you prefer solid color clothes or a pattern?
I have no fashion sense as it is… I tend to prefer solid colors, but I have a lot of stripes too.  I guess it depends on what the pattern is.  And if I’m not dressed for work, I prefer shirts with pictures and words and favorite sports team logos and stuff like that.

2.  What are your 3 favorite things you do every day?
Breathe, eat, and sleep.

3.  How often do you post on your blog?
I don’t keep a schedule, and I don’t stress about it anymore.  I post when I’m ready and when I’m done writing something.

4.  When you handwrite, do you write in cursive or print?
img016 (2)

5.  When was the last time you ate bacon?
About a week ago.  I had breakfast for lunch.  I made bacon and waffles.

My best blog posts:
… that’s a tough one.

The one about the time I was sleeping and my friends woke me up (part 1, part 2) is a memorable one, because that was an important event in my life that led to other important things I haven’t written about yet.

The one about my last day of freshman year was good in a bittersweet way.  My mom said she got teary-eyed.

And I always enjoy telling the story of the time we played Sardines in the Death Star building.

It’s hard to narrow it down, though… so many of these stories mean so much to me.


I nominate whoever wants to do these.

My five questions for the Real Neat Blog Award:

1.  What is your reason behind blogging?

2.  How did you choose your blog’s name?

3.  If you could live anywhere else, and money and immigration laws were no object, where would that be?

4.  What is something you’re a fan of, but a little embarrassed to admit?

5.  Tell me a funny story involving farts.

My ten questions for the Mystery Blogger Award:

1-5. The same ones as the Real Neat Blog Award

6.  Tell about something that most people you know like but you don’t like?

7.  What technological advancement of your lifetime do you wish had never happened?

8.  What is a food that you really like to eat but hate to prepare (or go through whatever you need to do or wherever you need to go to get this food)?

9.  Tell me about the weirdest thing you’ve ever been invited to do by a friend.

10.  Are you typing your answer on a PC, Mac, iPhone, Android phone, or other?


I apologize if anyone else tagged me for something that I did not include here.

While we’re at it, let’s make this a question and answer post too… feel free to ask me any question you want, questions for 1995 Greg, questions for adult Greg, questions about blogging or life in 1995 or whatever.  I won’t make a separate post for that, but I will reply to comments here.

And stay tuned… in the next few days, I will finish the next actual episode, I promise.

Mid-March 1995. I completely dropped the ball.

Every Jeromeville student knows that Dr. Andrew E. Bryant is the best professor to get for general chemistry.  His students love him. He has been named Instructor of the Year. He is personable and likeable, better at interacting with students than most people who teach in a 400-seat lecture hall.  Dr. Bryant is known for pulling pranks on his class; I heard about one time on the first day of the quarter when he got some other chemistry professor to pretend like he was going to be teaching the class instead.  This other professor went over a fake syllabus that included far more difficult assignments and strict grading than any reasonable professor would have. A student who was in on the prank kept complaining that this was supposed to be Dr. Bryant’s class, getting the other students worked up.  The whole time, Dr. Bryant was sitting in the class disguised, and he revealed himself to the class about five minutes in. I wish I had been there to see that. Dr. Bryant is everyone’s favorite chemistry professor…

… in 2019.  I didn’t get to take his class, because Dr. Bryant wasn’t at UJ yet in 1995.  He started there in the early 2000s. And he wasn’t even Dr. Bryant yet in 1995; he was still an undergrad, at University of the Bay if I remember right.  Instead of getting a good professor like Dr. Bryant, I got Dr. Albrecht, who was boring and hard to understand because German appeared to be his first language.  And I was nodding off in his class today, because I was up too late last night talking on IRC with this girl named Jenny. (There’s a reason I brought up Dr. Bryant in the first place, but that’s another story for another time.)

I attempted to follow along with Dr. Albrecht’s lecture in the large lecture hall in the chemistry building.  Until this year, this was the largest lecture hall on campus; that really weird-looking concrete building that just opened this year had a larger lecture hall.  I tried to stay awake enough to take notes, but they were considerably less than legible. I became aware in my half-conscious state at one point that Dr. Albrecht was coughing.  After a few more coughs, he said, “Excuse me. I need to get a drink of water.” The sudden change in routine caused me to wake up a little, and I sat up to see Dr. Albrecht step out of the door on the side at the front of the lecture hall.

A little while after this, I heard running water and swallowing sounds.  I looked around, and people began to chuckle when they realized what was going on.  Dr. Albrecht was wearing a cordless lapel microphone, and he had forgotten to turn it off when he went to get water.  When Dr. Albrecht reappeared in the front of the classroom, the class greeted him with wild applause. I don’t know if he ever figured out that he had left his microphone on.

That was certainly the highlight of my classes that day.  The rest of the afternoon, I just did homework and studied.  At dinner time, I sat with a bunch of people from my building.  They were already there when I arrived, so I sat down in the middle of their conversation.

“So we looked at Hampton Place today,” Liz said.

“Which one is that?” Sarah asked.

“It’s behind Albertsons on Andrews and Coventry.  I like that place. It seemed nice and quiet, and it’s just a short walk to Albertsons for groceries.”

“You’d be in a two-bedroom?”

“Yeah.  They said if we give them a deposit by Friday, they’ll save two apartments for us, one right on top of the other.  Caroline and I upstairs, and Ramon and Jason downstairs.”

“That’d be a good arrangement.  Taylor, weren’t you guys looking at apartments today too?”

“Yeah,” Taylor said.  “We signed a lease at The Acacia.  That’s on Acacia Drive, not too far from where Liz was just talking about.”

“That’s you and Charlie and Pete?”

“Yeah.”

I started to get a feeling of dread as I realized what they were talking about.  They were making plans for living arrangements for next year. And all of this planning had happened while I was completely oblivious to it.  I didn’t even think about this as being something I should do right now. The next school year was over six months away. I had time. I didn’t have a roommate, and the thought of living with a roommate was kind of scary, but I surely still had other friends who would need a roommate.

 

A few days later, I got back from classes in the afternoon, went back to Building C, and checked my email from my room.  I had two messages, both of them forwarded chain letters. The first one was from Brendan upstairs, who sent a lot of forwarded chain letters and jokes; this one contained jokes about stereotypes of different universities in this area.


How many Bay students does it take to change a light bulb?
One to change the bulb, fifty-three to protest the bulb’s right to change, and twenty-six to protest the protesters.

How many Jeromeville students does it take to change a light bulb?
None, because Jeromeville doesn’t have electricity.

How many Capital State students does it take to change a light bulb?
One, and he gets five credits for it.

How many Santa Teresa students does it take to change a light bulb?
Twenty-six: one to hold the bulb, and twenty-five to throw a party and get so drunk that everything spins.

How many Walton students does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one; he holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.

How many Valley students does it take to change a light bulb?
None, because Stockdale looks better in the dark.


 

I laughed out loud at that last one.  I had visited the University of the Valley in Stockdale with my family on the same day we first visited Jeromeville, and the surrounding neighborhoods looked really trashy and sketchy.  And… Jeromeville doesn’t have electricity? What’s with that? While that is of course far from the truth, that does seem consistent with the way that urban elites in Bay City and San Tomas see the rest of the state.

The other email was from a girl named Jenny, whom I had met on IRC recently.  It wasn’t a standard chain letter, though; it was one of those things where she wanted her friends to answer questions about themselves.  Jenny answered nine questions that her friend Matt had sent her, then she forwarded the email to nine of her friends with a new nine questions for us to answer.


What is your favorite thing about Fall?
What is your go-to drink?
What favorite treat really hits the sweet spot for you?
Tell me about a favorite date or share a great date night idea.
Do you have a favorite family tradition?
What book(s) are you reading right now?
What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Do you have a secret or hidden talent?
What is one way you served or blessed someone else recently?


 

I hit Reply and started typing.


What is your favorite thing about Fall?
A new school year with a chance to meet girls… um, I mean new friends.

What is your go-to drink?
Coca-Cola.

What favorite treat really hits the sweet spot for you?
M&Ms.  I love those things.  I probably shouldn’t eat as many as I do.

Tell me about a favorite date or share a great date night idea.
Good question… my best date night idea is a night where I actually go on a date.  Because that pretty much doesn’t happen.

Do you have a favorite family tradition?
I don’t remember how this tradition started, but every year at Christmas, we play Trivial Pursuit.  My mom and I are both trivia buffs, and Grandpa also knows a lot of stuff, but he has the advantage of having been alive for some of the history questions.

What book(s) are you reading right now?
I just finished Forrest Gump by Winston Groom.  A lot of the details are different from the movie, but I liked it.  I loved the movie too. I just started reading It by Stephen King. My mom read this book when I was a kid, back when it was new, and I’ve heard it’s really good.

What one piece of advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be so shy or afraid to try new things!  I made a lot of new friends senior year of high school, and if I had actually gotten out more and met them earlier, I would have had more time before we all went off to college and lost touch.

Do you have a secret or hidden talent?
I know pretty much every highway in the western United States.  My friend Sarah, when we met, she had me guess where she grew up by naming two of the highways in her city, and I did.

What is one way you served or blessed someone else recently?
Yesterday, I was walking around the Memorial Union, looking for a place to kill time between classes.  I saw my friend Tiffany from math class, and she was having a hard time understanding the homework, so I helped her.

And my nine questions for you:
Were you named after anyone or anything, or for any particular reason?
What did you eat for dinner last night?
What’s a movie, TV show, book, song, etc. that you really like that most people haven’t heard of?
If you could go visit anyone currently alive on Earth right now, for one day, and getting yourself there was no object, who would it be, and where is this person?
Where is someplace you enjoy visiting that is not a traditional tourist destination?
Which dead celebrity or historical figure do you most wish had not died?
Coke or Pepsi, or neither, and why?
What do you like on your pizza?
What would you most definitely not want to name your future child, and why?


 

I sent this message to nine friends, all people I knew from the Internet who regularly sent me this kind of stuff.  I didn’t send it to anyone from Building C, because of the time a couple months ago when Karen Francis got so mad at me for forwarding a chain email to the entire building.

I lost track of time while I was studying and doing homework, and I didn’t make it to dinner until after seven o’clock.  None of my usual friends to sit with were there. I sat by myself at a large table, but a few minutes after I sat down, I heard someone ask, “Hey Greg!  What’s up? You mind if we sit with you?” The words were spoken very quickly, so that they almost ran together.

I looked up to see Jack Chalmers, a tall guy with a year-round tan who wore shorts and sandals most of the time, including right now, even though it was only 58 degrees outside.  He was with two other guys I didn’t know. Jack grew up in a beach town that I had never heard of before this year, south of here between Santa Teresa and San Angelo, and he always talked fast.  Jack was in my math class fall quarter, and he lived in Building F.

“Sure,” I said.  “Go ahead.” Jack and his friends sat at my table.

“How’s 21C?” he asked.

“It’s going well.  I still have an A. My instructor is a grad student, and I think it’s her first time teaching.  I had to explain something to her the other day.”

“I like my class this quarter.  The professor’s hard to understand, but I can usually figure it out.  You taking 21D in the spring?”

“Yes.  It’s at 9AM somewhere in Wellington, but I don’t remember the instructor or room number.”

“I’m in that same class.  There’s only one class at 9AM.”

“That’s cool.”

“What are you doing over spring break?”

“Nothing special.  I’m going back home for the week.  One of my friends from high school wants to get together and catch up.”

“You’re from Santa Lucia, right?  Or somewhere near there?”

“Yeah.  Plumdale.”

Gesturing toward one of the other guys at the table, Jack said, “Jeremy and his girlfriend and I and someone else we know are gonna take a road trip to Santa Lucia over break.  We were just talking about the best way to get there from here. What do you think?”

Back in 1995, cars weren’t equipped with GPS, and there was no Google Maps to ask for directions.  In order to figure out how to get somewhere, you had to read a map. A map was this big piece of paper that would fold out, with diagrams of all the roads in the area.  Some people didn’t even read maps well, so they had to get directions by asking someone who was familiar with the area, although in 1995 I had no concept of the fact that some people couldn’t read maps.  But more on that later. I always had this odd fascination with maps and highways, so Jack’s question was perfect for me.

“You know how to get to San Tomas?” I asked.  “100 west to 6 south?”

“Yeah.  Should we keep going to the coast from there?”

“No.  That road always has really bad traffic.  Take 11 south to Plumdale, where I’m from, and then take 127 west.  And if you know where to look from 127, off the right side of the road you can see my high school.  There’s a big mural on the back of the gym that says ‘Tiger Country.’”

“The 127, west,” Jack repeated.  I noticed that Jack said “the 127” instead of “127” or “Highway 127.”  My friend Melissa from high school said that too. She grew up south of me, as did Jack, and this was a peculiarity of the speech pattern of people from that part of the state.   I always thought it sounded funny. In fact, in 2011 I had a girlfriend who said highway numbers with “the” in front; I made fun of her for it once, and she just glared at me. That relationship didn’t work out, although I should clarify that the highway thing was not the primary reason we broke up.

“Yes.  Just follow the signs to Santa Lucia from there.”

“That seems pretty simple,” Jack said.  “So do you know yet where you’re gonna live next year?”

I felt anxious as my brain processed what Jack had asked.  It seemed like literally everyone was talking about this, and I didn’t even know where to start.  “No,” I said.

“Do you have roommates for next year?”

“No.”

“I’ve heard places fill up fast.  You might want to get on that.”

My anxiety spiked even more.  Not only was everyone talking about this; it also seemed to be a bigger deal than I thought, even though it was only March.  “Yeah,” I said. “First, I need to figure out who to live with.”

“What’s your roommate now doing?” Jack asked.  “Would you want to live with him again?”

“I’m in a single room.”

“Hmm.”

“And most of the people I really know well already seem to have plans.”

“You can always find someone looking for a roommate.”

“I guess.  I don’t know what it would be like living with strangers, though.”

“Yeah.  I know a guy who is a junior, and he lives with people he didn’t already know.  They’re all pretty chill, but you might get someone sketchy.”

“Right.”

“Good luck, man.  Want me to tell you if I hear of anyone looking for a roommate?”

“Sure.”

To be honest, I really didn’t want to live with some friend of Jack’s whom I didn’t know.  But at this point, I didn’t know what was going to happen, and I didn’t want to be stuck being homeless.  I felt discouraged, like I had completely dropped the ball on this one.

Back in Building C, Taylor and Pete were sitting in the study lounge.  “Hey, Greg,” Taylor said as I walked into the lobby. I walked toward them.

“What are you guys up to?”

“Nothin’ much.  Just sitting.”

“I have no idea where I’m living next year.  I keep hearing everyone talking about it, and I didn’t even think about it until I overheard everyone.  Does anyone we know still need a roommate?”

“I don’t know,” Pete said.  “Most of the people I’ve talked to already have plans.  But keep asking. Plans might change.”

“And you can always find people looking for roommates,” Taylor added.  “Check the classifieds in the Daily Colt. Or just look around on bulletin boards.  I can let you know if any of our friends from church need a roommate, or anything like that.”

“Yeah.  I’m a little nervous living with strangers, though.”

“That makes sense.  But you never know. You might live with a stranger, and he’ll end up being your best friend.  None of us with roommates in Building C knew each other before this year.”

“That’s true.”

“You’ll figure something out,” Pete said.  “Start looking, but don’t stress about it.”

“I’ll do my best,” I said.

 

Associated Students publishes a guide to finding apartments in Jeromeville every year.  I was vaguely aware that there were stacks of these apartment guides in many of the large buildings around campus, next to the boxes that held the free copies of the Daily Colt.  I took a copy of the AS Apartment Guide the next day and started looking through it during a break between classes.

The city of Jeromeville is colloquially divided into six regions, although these six regions had no official legal status.  The oldest part of Jeromeville, between the campus and the railroad spur leading north to Woodville, is called Downtown Jeromeville.  The areas directly north of downtown and the UJ campus, but south of Coventry Boulevard, are called Central Jeromeville. West Jeromeville is west of Highway 117, North Jeromeville is north of Coventry, East Jeromeville is east of the railroad track and north of Highway 100, and South Jeromeville is south of 100, which means that it is actually southeast of downtown, but as the only part of Jeromeville south of 100, the “south” name stuck over the years.

Downtown Jeromeville was closest to campus, but it was by far the smallest of the six regions, and there were not many apartments downtown.  Central was also close to campus, and also lacking in apartments. Most of the rental properties in those areas were old houses or small apartment buildings that were rented privately by owners and not published in the AS Apartment Guide.  Larger and newer apartment complexes were scattered throughout the other four regions of Jeromeville. The Apartment Guide listed the number of apartments of each size at the complex (which did not necessarily mean that all would be available for the coming year), the monthly rent for each size of apartment, amenities offered by each apartment complex, and the nearest bus line.  The local bus system in Jeromeville is jointly operated by AS and the city, so most of the routes and schedules are very student-centered.

I noticed a large concentration of apartment complexes in a section of north Jeromeville along Alvarez Avenue and Maple Lane. One of the apartments in this area was called Las Casas Apartments; I remembered a few months ago when Mike Adams mentioned a friend who lived there, and I found the name funny because Las Casas literally means “the houses” in Spanish.  That might be a good area to look into; it wasn’t as old as the neighborhoods close to campus, and two grocery stores are nearby.

I also noticed that some apartment complexes in Jeromeville only had one- and two-bedroom apartments, and others, particularly the newer ones farther from campus, also offered three- and four-bedroom apartments.  Some also had studio apartments, which I thought meant that one room was intended to be both a living room and bedroom. One complex called Walnut Tree Apartments in west Jeromeville even had six-bedroom apartments.  As an adult, I now know that apartments this large are quite unusual in normal cities. Jeromeville has a market for large apartments, though, because most rental properties in Jeromeville are rented by groups of students living together.

I still did not know what my situation would be for roommates for next year, nor did I know how much Mom and Dad would be willing to spend on my rent, or if I would have to get a job.  And just about everyone I had asked in Building C already had roommates for next year, with many having already signed leases. The AS Apartment Guide didn’t help with that.

 

One day, during the following week, as everyone was preparing for winter quarter finals, I was doing math problems in the common room downstairs.  Jared, the weird guy from the third floor with the bushy blond hair, walked in, and I waved to him. “Hey, Greg,” Jared said, walking toward me and sitting in a chair next to me.  “Ready for finals?”

“I’m getting there.  What about you?”

“I have so much to do. I have a paper to write, and it’s due tomorrow.”

“I’m more worried about finding a place to live next year than I am about finals,” I said.  “Everyone seems to have plans already, and I had no idea any of this was going on.”

“Yeah.  This guy I’ve had classes with lives in a house just off campus, and they have an opening for next year.  So that’s where I’m going to live.”

I realized about halfway through mentioning my concern about next year’s living arrangements that maybe I shouldn’t say anything in front of Jared, because Jared might want me to live with him.  I really didn’t think I wanted to live with Jared. He was a nice guy, but a little odd. So I was a little relieved that Jared had plans for next year. “Do you know if anyone in this building still needs a roommate?” I asked.

Jared looked like he was thinking about this.  “Phuong?” he said.

“Hmm.  I haven’t talked to Phuong.”  I hadn’t talked to Phuong because the thought of having a girl roommate seemed strange and inappropriate to me.  People would get the wrong idea. And I didn’t know if I felt comfortable living in such close quarters with a girl.

“I hope you figure something out,” Jared said.  “I need to get upstairs and work on my paper.”

“Good luck,” I said as Jared got up and climbed the stairs.  A few minutes later, I went upstairs and back to my room. Later that night, after it was cheaper to call long distance, I called my parents and explained my situation.

“Don’t worry about this,” Mom said.  “We’ll find something. And like you said, the worst case scenario is you have to live with strangers.  But at least you’ll have a place to live.”

“I guess.”

“I’m sure not every apartment in Jeromeville is booked for next year already.”

“That’s not what I’m hearing people say.  Apparently everything here fills up really fast.”

“People are always moving in and moving out.  Something will be open.”

“That’s not how Jeromeville works.  According to the AS Apartment Guide, most apartments in Jeromeville use something called the ‘Jeromeville Model Lease.’  Apparently someone designed this to be student friendly, but what it means is that every apartment operates on a 12-month lease from September to August every year.”

“They can’t all do that, can they?”

“It sounds like they do.  At least most of them. It’s stupid that the city and the university think they can control the economy like that.  That’s Communism. But people like Communism in this socialist People’s Republic of Jeromeville.” Technically, apartment complexes participate in the Jeromeville Model Lease voluntarily, so it is not Communism.  If anything, it is a result of the free market; apartments use this to more easily market themselves to students, who are the overwhelming majority of Jeromeville renters. But thinking through whether or not the Jeromeville Model Lease is actually Communism is not something I wanted to do right now, since I was upset.

“And there’s no way you can be in a dorm again?” Mom asked.

“The dorms are only for freshmen.  At least, you’re only guaranteed a spot for one year.  That’s what I’ve read.”

“If you apply to be in the dorm again, is there a chance you might get in?  Is it too late to apply?”

“I’ll look into that, but I don’t know what my chances are like.”

“Could you commute?  Find an apartment somewhere else, like Woodville?  Or even Capital City. Capital City is huge; I’m sure there are lots of apartments there.  Even if it’s just temporary.”

“Maybe.”

“Don’t worry about that right now.  Take care of finals first. And when you come home after finals, bring the Apartment Guide, and we’ll start to make plans.”

“I guess.  And if I have time, I’ll drive or bike past some of these places to get a better idea of what the neighborhood is like.”

“Sounds like a plan.  See, you’ll figure this out.”

“I guess.”

 

My last final was Thursday afternoon of finals week; I stuck around to unwind and talk to girls on IRC that night, and drove home Friday morning, March 24.   My finals went pretty well. I didn’t find any of them to be particularly difficult, but I still felt a little apprehensive, because I rarely thought I did well on finals.  I always feared the worst. And I also felt bad because I had completely failed at making plans for housing next year. Mom said not to worry, but I did worry, because I didn’t know what was going to happen.  I like having a plan to follow, and this wasn’t one.

But as difficult as it was, I knew that I would be able to make something work.  Maybe I would find a place of my own that wasn’t too unaffordable. I had a feeling that Mom and Dad would be willing to spend money on me, although I hated that.  Mom and Dad had made a lot of bad decisions with their money in the past, and I hated for them to have to spend more because I didn’t do my job of finding roommates.  I know I wouldn’t want that if I were ever a parent someday. I could always try to get a job next year if I felt like I needed to be contributing more.

I grabbed a tape at random and played it when I got far enough south for the Capital City radio stations to become fuzzy.  The tape was R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People album.  I took a deep breath as I tried to let the sounds of alternative pop-rock music and Michael Stipe’s strange lyrics drown out worries of not having a place to live next year.  I was unsuccessful in that.

But maybe it wasn’t all worrisome.  Maybe there was another plan in store for me.  Maybe someone I knew would have a potential roommate back out at the last minute.  Maybe I would be commuting from Woodville, or from Capital City. Maybe I would find strangers to live with, answering a roommate wanted ad or living with friends of friends whom I didn’t know personally.  And wherever I ended up next year, maybe my living situation would lead to something good that would never have happened had I lived somewhere different. One can never tell.

In hindsight, knowing how this part of my story turned out, I can definitely say that that last part is true; my living situation for sophomore year did in fact directly lead me to do something one night, which in turn led to something which changed my life forever.

 


AUTHOR’S NOTE from 2019:  Jenny, who wrote the email with all the questions to answer, is not an actual IRC friend from 1995; she is a current reader of this blog, who nominated me for another Sunshine Blogger Award.  The rules are to thank the blogger who nominated you, answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you, nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.  Thank you, Jenny!  I don’t normally nominate people for stuff like this, as I said, but if any of you reading this want to do it on your blog, go for it.  And post a link to your blog below so other people can go take a look at it.

Go check out Jenny at http://progressinbloom.com

In the story, I only answered nine questions, because two of Jenny’s questions for me refer to blogging, which didn’t exist in 1995.  So here are those answers:

How long have you been blogging for and why did you start?
I started this blog in December 2018, because I like telling stories about my past, and I’m old enough now that life is very different now than it was in 1995, which makes the stories inherently more interesting.

What makes a blog article worth sticking around for— one you truly enjoy reading?
Good question.  I would say being able to relate is a good characteristic (which also applies to books and movies and TV for me).  I’m not going to read a blog about, say, the best way to have a great one-night stand, because I won’t ever have a one-night stand.

And my 11 questions for anyone who chooses to participate:

  • Were you named after anyone or anything, or for any particular reason?
  • What did you eat for dinner last night?
  • What’s a movie, TV show, book, song, etc. that you really like that most people haven’t heard of?
  • If you could go visit anyone currently alive on Earth right now, for one day, and getting yourself there was no object, who would it be, and where is this person?
  • Where is someplace you enjoy visiting that is not a traditional tourist destination?
  • Which dead celebrity or historical figure do you most wish had not died?
  • Coke or Pepsi, or neither, and why?
  • What do you like on pizza?
  • What would you most definitely not want to name your future child, and why?
  • iPhone or Android or neither, and why?
  • What celebrity do you enjoy following on social media the most, and if you don’t follow celebrities on social media, why not?  (It’s up to you whether or not someone counts as a celebrity)

 

January 14-16, 1995. I completely failed at the Internet.

Tonight looked like it was going to be another boring Saturday alone in room 221.  After I got back from dinner, I got on the computer and dialed up to the school Internet service.  Computers weren’t connected to the Internet all the time back then. The technology to do that existed, but most people couldn’t afford the kind of connection required for that.  We normal people had dial-up modems, connected to regular old telephone lines in the wall. As I connected, the modem made the sounds of dialing the seven digit phone number to connect school accounts to the Internet, followed by the usual sound of ringing that one hears from inside the telephone headset while waiting for the other side to answer.  After the call was answered, the modem made a bunch of whirring, dinging, buzzing, and hissing sounds as it established a connection. When the terminal window showed a command prompt, I typed “irc” and entered the chat that the school computer system defaults to. Because this was the default for connecting through a UJ server, I occasionally saw other UJ students in that chat.

Today, while looking at the account info for the other people in the chat, I saw a UJ account with a name that I recognized: Schuyler Jenkins.  She lived upstairs from me on the other side of the building, in room 306. She was short, with brown hair and glasses, and although we were on friendly terms, she had a strong and fiery personality that reminded me a bit of the kind of person who feels a need to compensate for being short.

I decided to play a little prank.  To this day, I’m still not sure why I did this, but I thought it would be fun.  It was fairly easy with IRC to change both your name displayed in the chat and the actual name that people would see when they looked up your account information.  Ever since I discovered that I did not need to have my real name on there, I had used “A soul in tension,” a line from a Pink Floyd song, as my real name.

I needed to think of a fake name.  I typed “Eric Kingston.” For some reason, that was the first name that popped into my head.  The real Eric Kingston was one of my brother’s friends back home; we had numerous inside jokes about him.  I changed my screen name to “KingEric” and reentered the chat.

After a few minutes, I sent Schuyler a private message.  “hey, you go to jeromeville?” i typed. I waited to see if she would respond… and she did.

sky246: yes
KingEric: me too
sky246: i can see that, eric kingston.  so what’s your major?
KingEric: chemistry

I hoped that I knew enough about chemistry that any questions about my made-up major would stand up to scrutiny.  I really liked chemistry in high school, and so far I seemed to be understanding chemistry just fine this quarter.

sky246: you’d fit in well in my dorm.  lots of science and engineering people here.
KingEric: which one?
sky246: building c in the south area.  the honors program.
KingEric: oh no way, i’m in building a
sky246: that’s cool. i wonder if we’ve ever run into each other at the dc?
KingEric: maybe
sky246: what do you look like?
KingEric: blond, about 5’11, blue eyes, freckles. what about you?

My made up description was based on the real Eric Kingston.  I couldn’t think of anything else to say, other than actually describing myself.

sky246: short, thin, long brown hair, i wear glasses
KingEric: nice :) what’s your major?
sky246: english
KingEric: do you know what you want to do with it?
sky246: i’m not sure. maybe go to grad school and become a professor.  or maybe teach high school.
KingEric: so what are you up to tonight?
sky246: just staying at home in my room.  this creepy guy who lives in my building has tried to ask me out twice in the last few days.  i don’t want to run into him again tonight
KingEric: uh oh.  why is this guy creepy? this sounds like a good story
sky246: his name is jared. he’s just weird. he sits in the common room playing scrabble all day.  we have a class together, and he’s only been to class once. and at the dc, he always looks for some random girl and tries to sit with her.  if you ever see a guy with shaggy blond hair at the dc trying to sit with some girl and getting rejected, that’s probably him
KingEric: i haven’t noticed him, but good to know
sky246: what’s your favorite animal?
KingEric: cat.  why?
sky246: just wondering
KingEric: what’s yours?
sky246: you have to promise not to laugh.  it’s kind of silly
KingEric: ok, i promise
sky246: platypus.  i don’t know why, i was obsessed with platypuses ever since I was young.  where are you from?

I was tempted to correct Schuyler and tell her that “platypuses” should actually be “platypi,” but irregular plurals were a Greg thing, and I didn’t want her to know that I was really Eric.  Also, I learned later in life that “platypodes” would be an even better irregular plural, since the -i ending came from Latin, but the -odes ending, like the rest of the word “platypus,” was derived from Greek.  Also, I hadn’t thought about where Eric Kingston was from. If I said Plumdale, it could again lead back to me, especially since Plumdale is pretty small, and most people in my building knew I was from Plumdale. If I chose almost any other place, she might say something that would give away my lack of familiarity with that place.  But maybe I could say something near Plumdale, so that I would be familiar enough with that place to talk about it.

KingEric: santa lucia
sky246: i like it there.  i’ve been there a few times.  i’m from santa teresa, farther down the coast
KingEric: it seems nice there.  but i’ve only seen it a few times from the freeway
sky246: it’s beautiful there, right in between the mountains and the beach
KingEric: that sounds nice
sky246: yeah.  i’m hoping to move back home someday, but if i become a professor i might have to work somewhere far away
KingEric: true.  i don’t know where i’ll be when i’m done
sky246: you’ll figure it out
KingEric: i hope so
sky246: hey, i need to go.  but we’ll talk again sometime, i hope?
KingEric: yeah! have a great day!

I signed off a few minutes after Schuyler left and played Tetris for a while.  After I got bored with that, I checked my email. Back in 1995, no one used words like “memes” and “viral” in the context of the Internet.  Email was just becoming mainstream about that time, and the 1995 equivalent of memes and viral posts was to forward something noteworthy or funny to everyone on your email list.  I had just started to receive these in the last few months. Today I had one from a girl I knew from IRC named Charlene, who lived in Texas; she often forwarded these messages to me.  I opened and read her message:

Hi, friend!  This message is full of sunshine!  Follow the directions and you will have sunshine in your life!  Just answer these 11 questions, and then forward this message to all of your friends, but give them 11 new questions to answer.

I read through Charlene’s answers to the 11 questions she was given.  She wrote about the last time she followed her gut on a big decision, whether she prefers a frugal or generous significant other, how reading fiction is different from nonfiction, and a number of other subjects.  Then I read the questions that Charlene had written for her friends:

Where do you get your news?
If your job gave you a surprise paid three days off, what would you do those three days?What is something that you resent paying for?
What is the most expensive thing you have broken?
What was cool when you were younger, but is not cool now?
What is something that no matter how evolved we become will always be popular?
Who do you go out of your way to be nice to?
Who was your craziest/most interesting teacher? What grade did they teach?
What are some red flags to watch out for in your daily life?
If you could move one character to play in a different movie/show, what character would it be, and to what movie/show?
What protagonist from a book or movie would make the worst roommate or spouse?

This could be interesting, I thought.  I clicked Forward, and copied and pasted the email addresses of everyone in the IHP into the Recipient field.  I didn’t have to type the addresses myself, because earlier in the year, someone had typed everyone’s addresses and sent the list to all of us, in case any of us ever needed to send an email to everyone.

I started typing my answers:

Where do you get your news? From the Daily Colt (the campus newspaper) and the Capital City Record (the nearby big city newspaper).

If your job gave you a surprise paid three days off, what would you do those three days?  I’m a college student. I don’t have a job. But if I had three days off school unexpectedly, I’d probably get caught up on homework and studying.  Then I’d do a lot of sleeping, reading, and playing around on the computer.

What is something that you resent paying for?  Welfare, via tax dollars. The government shouldn’t be taking my money and giving it to people who didn’t earn it.

(Of course, I didn’t have a job, but my parents earned that money and chose to give it to me.  No one forced them to give it to me. So the same principle applies. I would still feel this way if I did have a real job.)

What is the most expensive thing you have broken? One time last year, I was angry and punched a hole in my bedroom wall.  Does that count?

What was cool when you were younger, but is not cool now? Vanilla Ice. When I was 14 years and 2 months old, he was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I had outgrown him and his music by the time I was 14 years and 3 months old.

What is something that no matter how evolved we become will always be popular? Breathing. Breathing has been in style since prehistoric times. Either that or the Rolling Stones, since they’ve already been popular for over half a century.

Who do you go out of your way to be nice to?  I would hope most people. But I’m more likely to go out of your way to be nice if you’re nice to me.

(In retrospect, given what would happen over the next few days, this answer was interestingly ironic.)

Who was your craziest/ most interesting teacher? What grade did they teach? I’ve had a lot of crazy and interesting teachers, as well as a lot of favorite teachers for reasons that “crazy” and “interesting” don’t describe.  The first one who comes to mind is Mr. Pereira, my PE teacher from 9th grade. He would give silly nicknames to some students (for example, there was a kid who always wore a blue hoodie, not sure if it was gang related or not, but this teacher always called him “Little Blue Riding Hood”).  He also made up funny names for some of the activities we would play; the flag football class championship was called the Toilet Bowl, and when we had to run two miles on the day before Thanksgiving, he called it the Turkey Trot. And one time I told him my stomach hurt, and he told me to go take a shit.

What are some red flags to watch out for in your daily life?  People who don’t think the rules apply to them.

If you could move one character to play in a different movie, what character would it been and to what movie/show? Bud Bundy on Beavis and Butthead. The three of them could all fail at picking up chicks together.

What protagonist from book or movie would make the worst roommate or spouse?  Any of the boys from Lord of the Flies. They would probably turn into savages and try to kill me if I took up too much space in the refrigerator.

I then thought of eleven questions to ask others, typing them as I thought of them.

What place would you most like to visit right now, if neither time nor money were a factor?
What is the farthest away from home you’ve ever been?
What is the longest you’ve ever waited in line, and what was it for?
What is the weirdest or most noteworthy story you have about how you met one of your friends?
What is something you liked to eat as a kid, but you don’t like anymore?
If you could bring back one discontinued product, what would it be?
What was your least favorite thing about school?
If you could change one law/rule/etc. that applies to you, what would it be?
Who is your celebrity crush?
If you could change your name, what would you change it to? And if you like your name the way it is, why?
What’s that band/singer/musician that you’re a fan of, but you’re kind of embarrassed to admit it? Come on, everyone has one.

I clicked Send, and my email went to everyone in the IHP, waiting to read other people’s answers to my questions.

 

The next day was Sunday.  I went to church, and then to the dining commons to eat.  When I got back, I noticed that a small group of people sat in the common room talking.  Karen Francis saw me walk in. “Greg!” she said. I looked at her, and she looked kind of upset.

“Yes?” I replied, stopping to look at her.

“Don’t ever send me those chain emails again.”

“Umm… ok.”

“Seriously.  Those things are obnoxious and a waste of time.”

“I’m sorry.  I just thought it would be fun.”

“It’s not fun.”

“What about when other people have sent stuff like that to the whole building?  Why are you mad at me and not them?”

“I’ve also asked other people not to send me stuff.  It’s not just you.”

“Okay.  I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean anything by it.”

I walked back to my room, and the first thing I did was turn on the computer and take Karen off of my email list.  I felt a little put off by her reaction. I had no idea that people got so angry at this kind of thing, and I was just trying to have fun.  This wasn’t the first time I had made people mad through my lack of Internet skills; shortly after I started following the Pink Floyd Usenet group, I was scolded for asking dumb questions that had been answered already.  And this would definitely not be the last time I made people mad with the Internet.

 

Classes did not meet that Monday, because of the holiday for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.  I woke up fairly early, as I usually do, but I stayed in bed until almost 10:00, mostly reading. When I finally dragged my butt out of bed, I looked outside.  It was sunny, but cold. I put on a hoodie and got on my bike, riding south toward the creek.

A dry creek bed ran through the UJ campus.  At some point in the University’s history, the creek had been blocked at both ends, and storm drains from the campus were directed into the creek, effectively making it a very long, narrow lake.  From one end, where the creek bed once intersected Highway 117, to the other end in downtown Jeromeville, the lake was almost two miles long. An arboretum had been planted along both banks of the creek, featuring trees and plants from all over the world.  A path ran along both banks of the creek, so that it was possible to make a long loop around both sides of the arboretum. The arboretum provided a refuge of sorts from the busy atmosphere of the rest of the campus, giving one the impression of being deep in a forest somewhere.  I rode my bike two complete laps around the arboretum, then returned to Building C and showered.

The rest of the day was fairly lazy.  Around five in the afternoon, I was on my usual IRC chat, and I noticed Schuyler signed on a while after I did.  It was time to be Eric Kingston again. I had been talking to a girl from New Zealand; I told her I would be back later, and asked her to email me.  I signed off and came back a few minutes later as Eric, and I messaged Schuyler.

KingEric: hi!
sky246: hi
KingEric: how are you? did you do anything over the long weekend?
sky246: just sleep in and catch up on studying.  what about you?
KingEric: same
sky246: have you eaten yet tonight?
KingEric: no.  you?
sky246: no.  it’s funny, someday we might be sitting right next to each other at the dc and not even realize it.
KingEric: that would be funny.  or maybe i’ll figure out which one you are, and i’ll just sit next to you and say something like hello platypus… just to see your reaction
sky246: haha.  how will you know who i am?
KingEric: well… actually… i already know.
sky246: WHAT
KingEric: earlier this weekend i was at the dc talking to this guy named greg from your building, and i asked him if you were there, and he pointed you out.
sky246: brb

I had a feeling I knew what was coming next.  Time to see the reaction. About a minute later, I heard footsteps and a knock on my door.  I hid the window on my computer screen. “Come in,” I said.

Schuyler opened the door with an unhappy look on her face.  “Please don’t tell strangers personal information about me,” she said.  She turned around to leave.

“Hello, platypus,” I replied, grinning.

Schuyler stopped and turned to look at me.  “What?” she said. “It was you this whole time?  I hate you. You’re evil and a horrible person.” She slammed the door and stormed off.

Well, this wasn’t what I was expecting.  I was just playing a harmless prank, I thought, but her reaction certainly didn’t make my prank seem harmless.  I felt terrible now. And messing with someone’s head like this really wasn’t like me. I closed the IRC window on my computer and just stared at the screen for several minutes.  Maybe I should just stop using the Internet. All I’ve done so far this weekend is make people mad at me. I felt like hiding from the world forever and never trying to make friends with anyone again.

I ate alone at the dining commons that night.  I saw a few people I knew, but I decided I wanted to sit alone.  When I got back to Building C, some of the guys who lived on the first floor were sitting in the common room watching a movie.

“Greg,” Spencer said when he saw me.  “What did you do? Schuyler was down here earlier saying you were a horrible person.”

“I was chatting with her on IRC pretending to be someone else.”

“No way!”

“Wow” Jonathan said.  “That’s pretty impressive that you pulled it off. But still.”

“I feel really bad now.  I was just playing a harmless prank, trying to see her reaction.”

“She sure did react,” Spencer said.

“Are you going to apologize?” Jonathan asked.  “You might want to. She’s really upset. I think she’s in her room now”

“You’re right,” I said.

I walked up to the third floor and knocked on the door of room 306.  Schuyler answered, and when she saw it was me, she tried to close the door in my face.  I stuck my foot in the door so that it would not close all the way. In hindsight, this was a bad idea, because it kind of hurt having the door slammed on my foot.

“Schuyler,” I said.  “I wanted to apologize.”  She opened the door about halfway, but still just glared at me, saying nothing.  “I just wanted to play a prank and see your reaction. I didn’t think about how your feelings would be hurt, and it really isn’t like me to do something like that.”

Schuyler sighed.  “Come in,” she said.  She sat on her bed, and I sat on her chair.  I noticed that Schuyler’s roommate was on the other bed, studying, so I tried to stay out of her way as much as possible.

“I know you’re mad at me.  But I’m not good with people.  I’m still learning how the world works.  And I’m also not good at using the Internet in general.  It seems like all I do is make people mad at me without realizing it.”

“I believe you,” Schuyler said after a pause of a few seconds.  “Apology accepted. But I’m still hurt. It might be a while before I feel like talking to you again.”

“I understand.”

“You’re right when you said it wasn’t like you to do that.  You’re not mean. And that’s part of the reason I was so hurt.”

“Yeah.”

“I need to get to work.  But I appreciate you saying something.”

I got up to leave.  “Bye,” I said. “I’ll see you around.”

I left without saying anything else, but I had something else to say while I was in the mood for apologizing.  I walked to the other end of the third floor and knocked on Karen’s door. “Hi, Greg,” she said, opening the door just a crack, just enough to see her face.

“Hey.  I’m sorry about the email the other day.  It seems like my Internet habits are just making people upset these days, and I really didn’t mean to be annoying.”

“I know,” Karen answered.  “And I’m sorry I snapped like that.  I’ve just been in a bad mood the last few days.  And I’ve had friends and relatives emailing me this crap for years, and I’m just tired of it.”

Well, look at you, with your rich techie background and all of your friends and relatives who aren’t new to the world of email, I thought silently.  But what I said out loud was, “I took you off my mailing list already.”

“Thank you.  And don’t worry about it.  It’s really not a big deal.”

“Thanks.  I’ll see you later.”

“Bye,” she said, closing the door as if in a hurry to get back to what she was doing..

I walked back to my room and lay on the bed for a while, just thinking.  This whole weekend felt like I completely failed at the Internet. And even though I had apologized, I still felt like hiding from everyone.  No matter what I did, I would never be able to have a group of friends like a normal person. All I do is make people mad and say things that they don’t understand.  And in hindsight, I don’t even know why I tried to make Schuyler think I was someone else. Nor did I know why I decided to answer Charlene’s questions. It wasn’t like me to be mean for no reason, nor was it like me to actually take the time to reply to emails like Charlene’s.

I closed my eyes and let my mind wander.  Maybe I wasn’t as hopeless as I felt when it came to making friends.  I did have friends. So what if I kept to myself a lot. There were people in Building C, and a few outside of Building C, who cared about me and wanted to talk to me.  So what if I made some reckless decisions. People do stupid things sometimes. Everything feels like culture shock to me right. Living with seventy other students my age is a new experience for me.  I didn’t have a lot of interaction with peers at all growing up, and I was still learning. Making mistakes, making people mad, getting into arguments, these are all part of the process. Real friends apologize when they make mistakes.  They are honest about their feelings, and they stick together through it all.

Schuyler and I did end up on good terms eventually, although she didn’t talk to me much for the next couple weeks.  And Karen was fine once I took her off the email list. She wasn’t really hurt, just mildly annoyed. I should also point out that I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, the reason why Karen had only opened the door a crack and had seemed in a hurry to get rid of me: Pat was in Karen’s bed with his shirt off, and possibly other clothing missing as well.


AUTHOR’S NOTE from 2019: The email from Charlene (curiosityconfession.wordpress.com) was actually her nomination of this blog for the Sunshine Blogger Award.  The rules are to thank the blogger who nominated you, answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you, nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions, list the rules, display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/or on your blog, and notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.  Thank you, Charlene!  I don’t normally nominate people for stuff like this, so as not to annoy the Karen Francises of the world, but if any of you reading this want to do it on your blog, go for it.  And post a link to your blog below so other people can go take a look at it.

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