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You Could Always Tell Who the Freshmen Were

I was walking out to Rob, having left the school via the side gate, when I immediately saw a long procession of students at the street corner with the exact same idea I had. So, I put the afterburners on standby, paced my gait so that I arrived at the street corner just when the last student had passed, then resignedly fell in line with the procession.

To make a long story short, my own gait was reduced to languid, which seems to be the way young people prefer it these days. When they walk in groups, they also tend to walk on sidewalks three or four across, totally unconcerned about pedestrian traffic coming from the opposite direction or that there may be people behind who wish to go a little faster.

In the end, I just chose to be philosophical about the situation. I had had a long day and could do with some slackening of pace. Also, these were our students – freshmen just dismissed from the noisy orientation all afternoon-long just across my office.

I had too much to do to even consider investigating what was going on at the orientation. It seemed to be fun from what I could hear! The choir did a few numbers; a few live bands tried not to tempt the weather too much; and the pep squad drummers pounded on their snares and basses like tomorrow the Son of God returns.

Things were a little simpler when I attended my own freshman orientation several decades back. If they had laid out a similar program, I probably missed it because I arrived at the venue late.

I was not too concerned if I missed anything; I came from a high school run by the same religious order. I figured that if there was anything about college life that I needed to know, I could learn it as I went along. If I needed to find a building or an office, there were signs! I also thought I could always ask.

The pep squad was also present during my own freshman orientation. They were there, we were told, to teach everyone the school cheers and hymns so we could all get behind our school teams when the NC-season got underway. So, it was – like – when they gave the cue and went, “Rektikano… Ready… 1!!! 2!!! 3!!!”

We went – like – yeah, yeah… We knew the cheers from high school, for crying out loud! There was a bit more interest from freshmen coming from other schools…

Besides, when one went to an NC basketball game, one sort of learned the cheers, anyway, from the guys one sat next to. Definitely not from the pep squad on Orientation Day!

What did the cheerleaders know about cheering, anyway? Most of the cheers people just spontaneously blurted out up in the bleachers, the cheerleaders did not even know of! Some were raunchy; most were just unprintable. In fact, I thought most people went to NC basketball games – if they were not required by PE instructors – for the asar rather than for the games themselves!

In those days, the girls just did not go to the bleachers. They could always find vacant seats in the lower or upper boxes; but the bleachers were a male reserve! Well, just this one time, a few coeds gamely went with us to sit in the bleachers in that rickety arena just behind the campus.

I don’t think they ever went again! Put it this way… If they had virgin ears, they were viciously deflowered after an hour and a half of basketball!

There was more to college life, of course, than NC basketball. I quickly learned, often the harsh way, that nobody was going to hold my hand if I was having a hard time keeping my grades afloat. That is the way it is in college! You can take all the liberties you like – such as, skip as many as nine classes M-W-F or six for T-TH – but in the end you’re the one who pays!

The freshmen year – at least, in my case – was the most difficult one to overcome. Strange as it may seem to some of you, but I received my high school diploma a month short of my sixteenth birthday! Therefore, when I entered college two months later, I was at the tender age of sixteen years and one-and-a-half months!

I will not go into the graphic details; but let us just say that the growing up part was, in parts, even painful! I even had to ask for a year’s leave of absence just to gain a better perspective on things. That turned out – albeit, totally unintended – to be a pretty good decision. Returning to college after a self-imposed sabbatical, I was better prepared, mentally, to cope with the environment.

In my upper years, therefore, I would always look at freshmen with a bit of empathy brought on by my own personal difficulties dealing with this make-or-break year. This is not to say, though, that I and my friends did not allow ourselves to indulge in opening day mockery as herds of freshmen walked the corridors together – the tell-tale sign that they were just coming off freshmen block sections!

Almost to the last person, they wore crisp new clothes and glistening new black shoes. Totally not hip! It would take them a few weeks to eventually discover that denims, a plain white shirt and a pair of sneakers were the more sensible things to wear on campus.

If they ventured in smaller groups of five or six, expect them to walk looking up at the door signs – and how their eyes glistened when they got to the right rooms! But that’s just me being mean…

Ah, freshmen… Pretty much what I once was…

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