This weekend my school was swarmed with hordes of smelly teenagers for a youth music conference. I use the term "music" generously. It seems that when performing live, most bands (at least rock and rock-like bands) replace the artistry of their recorded music with bass lines and drum beats so loud you can hear neither the vocals nor the melody. The teens seemed to enjoy themselves, though.
However, I spent most of the weekend selling cotton candy or sitting in the hallway of my dorm on patrol, making sure the kids didn't set the place on fire or dye their hair in the bathroom sinks or engage in some such nonsense.
Despite my commitments to sitting around and selling stuff, I did get to see my cousin briefly. He arrived with a bunch of horses for the teens to ride during the times between concerts. They didn't just give rides to teenagers, though. I got to ride, too, for the first time since high school, and a couple of forty or fifty-year-old men also came early on to ask for rides. The ranch hands were happy to oblige them, but the men didn't want to start off straight away, as they wished to collect their hats and mittens first. It was about -13 outside with windchill, and they felt they were unprepared for riding horseback in their current gear.
Just then a group of teenage girls dressed in jeans and bunnyhugs arrived at the horses. One of them was giving a pep talk to her peers who were evidently voicing similar concerns about the cold. “We're Canadians," the pep-talker was heard to say. "We can handle it.”
Just to clear up this point, while Canadians are wonderful people, they are not, in fact, impervious to frostbite. Nevertheless, both men immediately aborted their plan to collect warmer clothes. “Well, if they can handle it,” they said to the ranch hand, “then so can we.” They got on the horses and went riding as they were.
And that is how a teenage girl can make grown men feel like wusses who need to prove themselves.
My friend Michelle was directing traffic in the parking lot. It was her job to make sure everybody could find a place to park. Here she is doing her job.
We had class on Friday morning, before the teens all arrived for the concerts. In class that morning, our professor, David, admitted that when he first moved to Canada he didn't know what a high-five was. As an illustration, he asked us to explain it to him and describe to him the parameters in which a high-five was appropriate.
“How formal or informal is it? Would you high-five Dwayne Uglem?” he asked. Dwayne Uglem is our college president. Not the student president, the actual president.
Everyone laughed. “No,” they said. “Well,” eventually a few amended, “Yes, if the circumstances were appropriate.”
“I would be impressed if you high-fived Dwayne Uglem,” said David.
Later that day, with concerts and indoor paintball in full swing, I was sitting with two of my classmates behind a table selling cotton candy. Suddenly Travis nodded across the hall to a bench. “Well, here's your chance,” he said.
“Huh?” I replied.
“It's Dwayne Uglem,” said Stephanie.
“Chance for what?” I said.
“To give him a high-five,” said Travis.
I looked past the river of people traversing the hall. Indeed, they were right. The president was sitting there on the bench by himself not doing anything.
“Oh, come on,” said Stephanie. “If I know anyone who'd high-five Dwayne Uglem, it's one of you two.”
So Travis and I abandoned our posts at the cotton candy table and cornered Dwayne on the bench.
“Excuse me,” said Travis. Dwayne Uglem looked up. “In class this morning, we were talking about high-fives-”
“Oh, don't explain it to him,” I interrupted, “Just high-five him.” I held up my hand. Dwayne Uglem gave me a high-five. Travis held up his hand. Dwayne Uglem gave him a high-five. There was a momentary pause.
“And we are not going to explain that,” Travis announced. We turned away and stalked back to our table. Stephanie cheered.
I think our adventures should count for extra credit.
I got a blue wristband that allowed me into the cafeteria for meals during the music conference. It was free, and being the semi-miser that I am, I was not about to let it go to waste.
The cafeteria seats about 500 people. It was full almost to capacity. Somehow, I ended up sitting for half the meal with nobody to my left, nobody to my right, nobody across from me, and my back against the wall. Maybe I smell worse than the teenagers?
At any rate, for the second meal the cafeteria was slightly less crowded and I again ended up sitting in a big open space. A guy in a big open space on the next table over turned around, looked at me and picked up his plate. “I'm going to turn around so we can face each other. Is that ok?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said.
We traded names. He was very friendly. I would peg him to be around eighteen* years of age. I was slightly concerned that he thought I was his age. As I said, he was being very friendly.
“So, is this your first time at YQ?” he asked with a big smile. YQ is the name of the youth music conference we were hosting.
“Yes,” I replied, trying to find a way to drop hints about my age without being appallingly obvious. “I'm a student here. This is my first year.”
“I haven't seen you,” he said. “Are you in the high school?”
“No,” I said. “I'm here getting an after-degree. I already have a bachelor's.”
His eyes grew wide. “Oh!” he exclaimed. “Oh!”
Yeah, that's me. The Wanderer – confusing guys since 1989.
My new friend gave me a very wide, sheepish smile. “I'm sorry - I'm sure you haven't got that one before!” he said. To his credit, this revelation didn't seem to phase him in the slightest in terms of his desire to make conversation and ask me lots and lots of questions. So maybe he was just genuinely friendly, after all.
At least when he misjudged my age he took off eight years instead of put them on. I don't think I'm ready to be thirty-two yet.
Now, it's life back to normal - except with an added weekend's worth of missed homework. Nose to the grindstone!
Me to my professor: I already argue with my grammar book. I don't think that adverbs and I are going to be friends.
David: No! You can't have a mind block. You have to be friends with all of grammar!
David: You can have favourites, though.
Well I can tell you that ADVERBS AIN'T MY FAVOURITE.
*ETA: I have since learned that he was EXACTLY 18 at the time. How's that for accuracy?