Sunday, October 14, 2012

No. 599 – Closet Chronicles

Performer: Kansas
Songwriters: Kerry Livgren, Steve Walsh
Original Release: Point of Know Return
Year: 1977
Definitive Version: Two for the Show, 1978

When you rush a fraternity, they don’t tell you about all the crap they’re going to make you go through. Oh sure, I had heard the stories from my Dad and seen Animal House, but they didn’t do any of that any more, did they?

I was really proud to be a member of Fiji house at Wabash, and I felt at home my freshman year even as I quickly became overwhelmed with coursework. As I mentioned, I had designs on being an architect, so I set up a science-heavy curriculum, which meant physics and math, along with a couple of freshman requirements. I chose this even though I had flunked a quarter of calculus in high school, and my physics grade was mediocre at best.

But the good feelings quickly changed after the pledge class had been finalized. On a Sunday night, a week after school started, the actives showed us exactly where we stood. The freshmen were rousted from their studies, even ordered home from the library, and made to proceed immediately to the basement. I knew what was going on, and I was in shock. Really? Is this 1982 or 1962?

They lined us up, got in our faces, denigrated us, pretty much gave us everything short of physical violence, which apparently was forbidden. Umm, apparently I missed the part where I had signed up to join the military.

And they laid down the law. Some of the things weren’t a big deal. I had been told that the freshmen did all the chores, and I was fine with that. I was a bit taken aback when the sophomores did everything the first week. That, of course, was a set-up.

We also had to take study table essentially nine hours a day. I already was operating under this policy, and that was fine with me, too. Besides, I had a scholarship I had to protect with good grades.

But then came all the petty stuff, the worst for me (because I hadn’t yet developed into the full-fledged wiseass that I would become) being what we called The Rules. We all had to write a series of 15 rules, each on a separate page, into a little notebook. If a rule got ripped because it wasn’t followed—or for any reason whatsoever, as I later found out—you had to rewrite the rule and all the rules after the missing one by breakfast the next morning. If you didn’t, they had another lineup.

Then to get us properly started on our year of being lower than whale poop, the pledges had to clean the whole house by morning. 8 a.m. classes? What’s your point? This ordinarily would be a big deal anyway, except to properly indoctrinate us on our new way of life, the actives had gone out of their way and to great lengths to completely trash the place beforehand.

So … we were expected to respect the Fiji code, banner and house, and you trash the place by, for example, throwing food all over the kitchen like you’re little kids. How’s that supposed to set an example for us to follow? Please, I’m willing to learn.

Of course, there was no explanation other than to make us go through Hell Night.

That night/morning, I was on second-floor bathroom duty, which was pretty gross. I procured a boombox, and my buddy Eric let me borrow his copy of Two for the Show.

And so I began scrubbing sinks and mirrors to the opening notes of Song for America. It was going to be a long night, but fortunately, I really liked this album—this was the first time I had heard it—so at least I had some good music to listen to as my newfound joy at being a member of a fraternity dissipated like soap suds on a bathroom tile floor.

No comments:

Post a Comment