The week before the semester starts, it's not the nerds but the hardest partiers who have already moved into their dorm rooms. After all, when finals are over at the end of the semester, there's just no time to do anything other than pack up and move out. But before classes begin? Well, that's another story.
Granted, I was in a boring demographic between those two extremes, but I was there on campus with the wild bunch. I was a junior, but like the freshmen, I had to come up early for orientation. Having just transferred, I had to go through a similar program that admittedly I was skipping out of a lot of the time. I had no obligations by this point in the night, however. It was late, probably mid-way through orientation week, and I was hanging out in the lobby with some relative strangers. We were just B.S.ing about nothing in particular when four guys passed through, one considerably drunker than the other three. The stand-out of the group was louder than the rest and had pretty much lost any sense of decorum or, frankly, any sense of where he was in order to find the appropriate level of it.
I'm not sure where all they had been that night, but clearly there was much alcohol involved. They could have been coming from any of several bars on the edge of campus or maybe they had just been doing shots in someone's room. Whatever the case, they were heading out the front of the dorm into the campus.
The drunkest one wasn't the main point of interest though, just the most salient member (at least from a distance). When they got up close, it was immediately evident that one of the more sober guys was the leader here, and he had something specific in mind.
"We're going camping," he told the drunk guy.
"Camping!" the drunk guy agreed. It was like watching George subtly manipulate Lenny into the path of the bullet.
By this point there was a small crowd of us following them. We could all see there was a plan to this ostensible madness, and we wanted to be there when it unfurled to whatever end the ring leader had in mind.
The next set of dorms across the way from ours was arranged in a horseshoe at the end of a cul de sac. There was no thru-traffic normally, and virtually none at all tonight with so few folks on campus. The crowd of spectators (myself included) held back while the group led their mark up into a planter in front of one of the dorms. With us out of earshot (and the drunkest one too far down his tunnel vision to notice anyone or anything more than an arm's reach from him), we were able to talk more freely. Someone in the crowd apparently knew a bit of the back story here. All four of the guys were from Alabama, but only the not-completely-plastered three knew one another previously. The drunk guy was someone they had "befriended" and gotten tanked up specifically to mess with. Now it was playing out in front of us.
By this point they'd talked the drunk guy into laying down in a bare patch of the planter.
"We're camping out under the stars," the leader said quietly.
"Camping under the stars," the drunk guy repeated, his enthusiasm giving way to slumber.
"We're going to sleep under the stars," the leader said. It was a mantra.
"Yeah, sleep under the stars," the drunk guy whispered. His lids were getting heavy. He was almost out... but then he wasn't.
He jumped up and said something loud and too jumbled to make much sense. The other guys calmed him down. "We're camping out under the stars," the leader reminded him.
The cycle of slowly, deliberately hypnotizing the drunk guy began again. The leader of the group had clearly done this before with some success. The patience in his efforts testified to his confidence that he'd gotten it right on several occasions and would here again if he persisted long enough.
Over the course of calming him down, they managed to get the drunk guy to undress down to his boxers. They set the example doing the same themselves. They took off their shoes and placed them under their heads like pillows. With no volition left in him left to anything but whatever he could mimic, the drunk guy followed suit. If you're drunk enough, reality is like silly putty, and as far as he was concerned, he was having the best camping trip with his buds.
After only a few minutes of lulling him into a calm, he was passed out for good. They could have carried him anywhere they wanted and he wouldn't have noticed. But they didn't. They quietly gathered up all his clothes except the boxers he was wearing and the shoes under his head. Then they just tip-toed away.
The crowd watching this were giggling before but were in total awe of what these guys had just pulled off now. We didn't see this coming at all. Though they seemed drunk enough at first, it was clear now that it was pretty much an act on the parts of all but the one now left lying half-naked in the planter. We all took off back to our own dorm and left this party casualty to his mosquito bites and whatever else was in store for him.
I didn't think anything more about this incident for many months afterward. In the meantime all of us who were there that week had started classes and had gotten settled into life on the campus. I had made some friends who lived in the dorms in the cul de sac. Some of us got to telling drunk stories one day about a year later, and before I could even bring this one up, my friend Maggie told us how the week before classes started when she was a freshman last year, she had woken up one morning, looked out her window, and there was a half-naked guy passed out in the planter in front of the dorm cattycorner to hers.
"What happened to him," I asked, giggling now even more than when we witnessed him being planted there.
"I called the cops, and they came and picked him up," she said. "Why?"
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