Next week at about this time, I will be on an airplane going back to Virginia (UPDATE: just changed my flight plans, so that sentence isn't true anymore). I'm actually sitting in the exact spot that I was sitting when I made the decision to go out there in the first place - 5 years ago.
A QUICK ACADEMIC RECAP
Upon graduating from high school in 2004, I left about 4 days later (eager to get the hell out of Walnut Creek California) to go to BYU as a visiting student. I lived in a dorm. It was a lot more pleasant than I was expecting it to be. I was expecting some crazy religious fanaticism, but I saw more drugs and fighting than I ever have anywhere else in my life. The first time I saw cocaine was in the dorms of BYU. I knew a guy that celebrated getting his mission call by smoking a bag of weed. Mormons are extreme, let me tell you what!
I had Puerto Rican roommate that would talk on the phone with his girlfriend until about 11 at night, and then he'd call up the girl that he was cheating on his girlfriend with and talk to her until about 4 in the morning (morally fine with him). Normally, I have very little patience for a) cheating and b) keeping me awake, but I kept my cool pretty well (outwardly. inwardly, I had dreams about separating his head from his thorax). I'd get annoyed with him and tell him to stop talking, so then he would talk is Spanish (as if that helped any). I was really trying to fit in and be a peaceful person, so I let it slide most of the time. There was one instance where I ripped the phone out from the wall (after typing this, I'm amazed at the temper I used to have). He didn't appreciate that much.
I'm also pretty sure that he would pee in the sink when he was too lazy to go down the hall to the bathroom, but I never caught him in the act (which I'm grateful for. How would you even handle that situation? "Uh... hi. Your schlong is out and you're pissing where I brush my teeth." "Yeah... sorry about that."). I never had any evidence for thinking he did that beyond my own paranoia and me thinking the sink smelled funny sometimes. I'm paranoid. We get it. Let's not dwell on that.
UPDATE: Who's "we" in the last idea?
One of the highlights of that summer was there being a full-on gang war between the guys from Heritage Halls and Budge Hall (me being from Budge). Knives and fire were involved, yelling and pushing, punching and kicking, mayhem and destruction, and I distinctly remember a guy riding a unicycle for some reason. I was at the center of it in Royal Rumble mode, pretty much taking out anyone I wanted, disregarding affiliation in some cases. No one got seriously hurt because a campus police guy showed up about 2 minutes into it. If there's one thing I've learned in my life, it's that you don't mess with the guy with the tight spandex shorts on - ESPECIALLY if he has a flashlight and a mountain bike. He was ready to bring the pain judging by the way he had that walkie-talkie pressed up against his lips - almost as if he had a bunch of snipers hiding in the bushes with their guns pointed at our hearts. You don't mess with snipers. Especially snipers wearing tight spandex shorts on mountain bikes.
When I eventually found out what the war was about, I felt foolish. Apparently someone's girlfriend sat on some other dude's lap in a car ride somewhere. I understand the whole jealousy thing pretty well, but when a girl sits on a dude's lap on a packed car ride somewhere, you just tell the girl that you're uncomfortable with that. You don't try and lop the dude's ear off. Be cool, not rash (says the guy that joined a brawl without knowing why).
Other highlights of BYU include:
Going jet skiing and mooching off of a really cute girl's aunt and uncle for two days.
Placing 3rd in a Battle of the Bands with me just solo-playing the piano and singing.
Having my heart broken by a cute girl that got hives every time she blushed.
Running into the French dude that made my life hell for a week 3 years earlier and watching as he made out with my hivey, blushy girlfriend.
Bowling every tuesday night by myself.
After that summer at BYU, I went to the school formerly known as Utah Valley State College. I lived with my older brother, one of his friends, and Ben.
If I were allowed to go back in time and punch two people in the back of the head, Ben would be the second punch (I'll probably write about the first one later). He would sneak into my room, steal my stuff, and when I'd notice it, he'd claim it was his even though it had my name clearly printed on the bottom-side.
I'm not talking about him stealing small, minor things like staplers or clothes or anything like that. Among other extremely noticeable things, the man ganked my mattress. MY MATTRESS!! Who steals a mattress and then denies doing it? He wasn't messing with me, either. He was dead serious. He claimed it was his before we moved in. It wasn't. I had to sleep a night with no mattress because he was passed out drunk in his room with the door locked.
He'd come in with his fake-baked girlfriend, drink like an entire gallon of milk while she watched in unnatural awe, and then they'd go back into his bedroom (which was right next to mine) and giggle like children all night and occasionally make that disgusting slurping sound. You know the sound, right? It's the sound of college romance, or so they say.
I lied. No one says that. Just me.
I'd wake up in the morning and go out to use the bathroom and his door would be WIDE open, exposing the world to himself and his girlfriend experiencing moments that should only be experienced intimately. Every morning, I had to make the decision to either pee, or hurl. I couldn't have both. After doing one, I wasn't in the mood for the other.
School itself was kinda crappy. The college was built a lot like my high school - It was basically a giant cinder block with no windows.
I had to get on the bus every day that was just outside of my apartment complex. If I missed the bus, I missed my first class (which I missed a lot but still ended up with a B+ in because it was music theory and I'm really good at music theory even though I'm not a music major or a music minor. Just sayin).
The highlight of my day was seeing The Hot Girl on the bus ride home. I'd try and coordinate my schedule so that I'd end up on the same bus as her. I talked to her once, but was just to stricken with awe to continue talking. She had lots of piercings. Mmmmmm... Piercings. SO hot!
Throughout this time, I was dating a girl named Megan. I was a jerk to Megan and I deeply regret the way that I treated her. On a brighter note, she's married and just had her second child (yay Mego!).
I love Southern Virginia University. So much. Except for that it's a place that's difficult to get to. It's about 3 hours south of Washington DC and the closest sorta big city is about 45 minutes in any direction. It's in the middle of nowhere, which is both really nice and really inconvenient when you want to leave.
I made the decision to go to SVU the summer I was 19 and working in a grocery store. My job really sucked. First, I started in the deli section, where employees and souls go to die. It was there that I lost the will to live.
It was me, another guy about my age, and a bunch of old women that complained about every single thing ever and thought that deli meat was the most important thing in the world. To them, working in the deli section of a Safeway was like working in a fine jewelry store. To me, working in the deli section of a Safeway is a step down from being a janitor at a movie theater. Meat is meat. Can you see where the worlds collided?
My dad knows the CEO of Safeway. He told him that I worked in the deli section. The CEO cringed and said, "A bunch of fat old women that have worked themselves into a hole and will never get themselves out. I feel for him." Just sayin...
After talking to the store owner, he agreed to put me in the bakery. Working in the bakery section was a little better, but I had to be at work at 4am. My personal opinion is that 4:30am is the most ungodly time of the day, and it was just when things were getting started for me. The store didn't even have a place to bake anything. We had to drive to another store 15 minutes away and steal their bakery stuff.
I worked with a woman from Brazil who thought that I was stupid or something. She would tell me that men are worthless and that she hated cleaning bathrooms because men piss all over the floor. She was really hard to understand.
UPDATE: after reading this over, I realize I talk about urine a lot in this post. I'm sorry for that.
The highlight of working in the Safeway was the blonde girl that worked in the flower section. She would call me up front and ask me to carry the heavy boxes to the trash for her because she had recently been in a car accident and it hurt her back. Looking back on that, I'm pretty sure she was lying to me. But I got to flirt with a hot girl, so that was a plus.
So those were the events leading up to deciding to go to SVU. I got a call from a nice man named Mike Flood, who offered to make my education practically free if I went to the school. I like money, so I agreed to go. Just a few days later, I was on a plane from Oakland to DC.
Red-eye Flight of Hell
No, the title is NOT overly dramatic. It was one of the worst airplane experiences I've ever had. Flying east sucks. I left late at night and arrived early in the morning. I had $300 in my pocket and a couple hundred on my card. I had a plane flight to Dulles airport in DC, and I had no idea how I was going to make the rest of the journey into southern Virginia. I'm terrible at planning things ahead of time and much prefer to just figure it out as I go. Here's the step-by-step solution that I came up with:
On the flight, I wanted so badly to sleep, but with the combination of extreme, puke-worthy turbulence (the kind that makes your weener feel funny) and a baby with the crying power of a train whistle, I got no sleep. I actually think I encountered a form of anti-sleep, where my body became tired twice as fast as the normal rate of exhaustion.
I remember not having enough space on the plane to really do anything. My knees were against the seat in front of me, there was a fat man to my side, I had no movies or shows on my laptop, I had no iPod. I just had a CD player with dead batteries. I sat there with my head in my arms on top of the tray table and wept, regretting my decision to adventure across the country by myself.
I landed at DC, got my two big bags from the merry-go-round, and got in line for a cab. I got in the cab, excited to finally have space to sit and not be uncomfortable. My cab driver was from Jamaica. We spoke the same language - supposedly. I couldn't understand a word he said. After asking "what?" a few times and him repeating the same thing over and over, I told him I wanted to go to the nearest Greyhound station, so he began to take me there. I was too tired to notice until the very end, but we took a lot of twisty detours on the way. I watched as the meter ticked up at an alarming rate. I didn't know cab rides were so freaking expensive... PLUS the guy was trying to inflate the number by taking wrong turns and stuff.
We got to the Greyhound station and he told me the fare was $100. I stared at him and said, "How about I give you $60 and I don't tell your boss about the extremely long route that you took to get here?" He agreed, surprised that someone so young was calling him out. I felt accomplished for not letting myself get taken advantage of. This trip was a learning experience for me in that regard.
I hauled my two huge suitcases and my overstuffed backpack into the station. I immediately realized that I stood out. I was some punk kid from east bay California surrounded by huge men and women waddling around in clothing large enough to house small children - AND conceal dangerous weapons. People sat on the floor and stretched out their hands, begging me for money and grabbing at my feet and suitcases. Women made suggestive comments about my "white boy ass." While I appreciated feeling attractive, they weren't my cup of tea. I'm more the kind of guy that enjoys a nice, normal sized glass of water. Some of these women were super-sized soft drinks, if you get what I'm saying.
I approached the counter, still lugging my massive suitcases with a death grip that made my knuckles white - afraid to let go or leave them out of my sight. I asked exhaustedly for a ticket to Buena Vista (where SVU was located). The old guy at the counter told me that the bus service to Buena Vista had stopped just a week earlier. He told me that the closest he could get me was to Lynchburg - about 45 minutes PAST Buena Vista.
I bought the ticket and asked him if he had two AA batteries for my CD player. He pulled out a purse and gave me two batteries. Thanks, Teddy. You're a good man. I'm sorry for judging you for being a huge black man with a purse. Please forgive me. If you ever read this, know that you saved my life.
I felt extremely guilty for buying a ticket whose destination was named after a form of murder, but I didn't really have any other options.
My bus didn't leave for another two hours. I had to pee. Badly. I also had all of my possessions stuffed into the huge suitcases (that wouldn't fit in the bathroom) that I was now sitting on in the middle of an overcrowded and shady bus station. I had a choice. I could either stay with my stuff and hold it, or pee and leave my things out of my sight in probably the most ghetto Greyhound station ever.
I debated in my head for the entire two hours, coming close to deciding to just go, but then someone would make some obscene comment to me and then I'd reconsider. I ended up holding it.
Greyhound Bus Ride of Hell
My bus came, I silently rejoiced, put my bags in the little baggage line, told them to play nice, and got on the bus. I chose a seat near the back left of the bus, sat down, put my backpack on the seat next to me (trying to deter people from sitting next to me), put on my headphones, leaned against the window and fell asleep. My headphones weren't actually turned on at this point. I've just noticed that wearing headphones is the universal sign for "@$!# OFF!" which was exactly what I wanted to communicate to anyone who dared sit next to me. I had been awake for a day and a half and I was emotional and moody.
I was only asleep for like 3 minutes when the bus made another stop at a place on the other side of the city. I was awoken by an asian girl about my age asking if she could sit next to me. There were plenty of other seats on the bus - even ones that she wouldn't have to share with someone. I try and be kind to strangers, so I moved my backpack and let her sit next to me. I made a huge mistake in selfishly holding on to the window seat. The spot where the window was attached to the bus was the exact height of my head, mxaking it impossible for me to sleep on it because of the pain the dip caused me.
The asian chick had severe track marks on her arms and smelled strongly of piss and gasoline with a faint scent of what I think was Halo by Victoria's Secret. I tried to imagine what her day had been like to come in contact with all three of those substances and laughed to myself when the thought of her shooting up at a gas station and getting sprayed with gas by someone watching (like when someone sprays a cat in the face with water when they do something bad) and her retaliating by trying to pee on them crossed my mind. The image in my head was a lot funnier than the description. I promise.
She passed out on me within seconds of sitting down. She drooled on my arm. Gross gasoline-piss-heroin drool. She snored a little and breathed heavily. Her breath smelled strongly of pretzels and coffee - both things that I don't enjoy all that much. I couldn't mutually fall asleep on her because she had pins in her hair that would have impaled my cheek. I turned on my Ben Folds CD and stared out the window, trying to adjust my tired eyes on the landscape. It was all really just a blur.
The bus stopped in Charlotesville (I don't know how it's really spelled and I don't care enough to Google it). I stepped off the bus after having the asian chick apologize for falling asleep on me. She wiped the drool off of my arm for me and then pinched my butt. Thanks, asian chick. Greatly appreciated. I love being sexually assaulted by piss-gasoline-heroin-Halo-pretzel-coffee stench girls. You don't even know!
I got off the bus and grabbed my bags. This new bus station looked much safer, so I didn't mind leaving my stuff out for the world to steal.
I finally got to pee after like a bajillion hours of holding it. As a side note, I've asked many of my male friends about this and they all, after thinking about it for a second, agree. When I step up to a urinal to do my thing and there's a guy at the next urinal over already doing his thing, I feel like less of a man if I finish before he does. Don't ask me why. There's no good explanation.
Anyway, after my much needed trip to the bathroom, I sat down and waited for my next bus to come in to go to Murdertown. After like a half hour of waiting, I stepped up to the counter and asked when the bus was going to leave. The lady pointed out the window and told me, like I was 3, that the bus was leaving right now. "Oh, sweetie..."
I grabbed my stuff and stumbled outside just in time to catch the guy close the bag-cage under the bus. What I wanted to say was, "Excuse me, sir. I'm sorry I'm late coming out of the station, but I didn't know the bus was already here. Could you please open up the baggage section and put my things in so that I can get on the bus and go to Lynchburg?" What I really said was, "BLAGRFNARTMUCNOOOO!!" He didn't react like I had hoped. He told me to try again, and I explained to him desperately that I needed my bags on the bus. He said there wasn't any room left underneath the bus and that I'd have to wait for the next bus which left tomorrow at the same time.
"The hell with that" I thought to myself. He left to go back inside, I opened the bag cave myself, stuffed my stuff inside (myself), closed the bag cave (myself), and snuck on the bus. Success. I was so sneaky. Like a sneaky ninja-squirrel... that was big and smart enough to do human things.
I chose the same seat on this bus that I chose on the last bus. I actually slept on this bus ride. It was about an hour and a half. I woke up as the bus pulled up to city hall in Lynchburg. I guess there was no bus station. I went inside and asked how I could get into Buena Vista. They had no idea. I told them to call me a cab and that I'd figure it out from there. They looked at me weird and then called one.
The old man's name was Harold and his cab was blue. I told him I wanted to go to Buena Vista and he laughed at me. I told him I'd give him $60 and he stopped laughing and told me to get in. I thought back to the short cab ride in DC and compared it to this long cab ride in southern Virginia and cursed my nation's capital for screwing me over on cab fare.
Harold talked about his childhood and the mistakes he made growing up and what I should do to avoid making the same mistakes. Note to self: Never try to rob a bank. Never rape a woman, get her pregnant, then decide to marry her out of guilt. Never spend my entire life savings on beer and then beat my child while drunk. Never let a police man see me drowning possessed kittens in the river. Never slap the mayor. If I avoid those things, I won't end up driving some California boy 45 minutes one-way for $60.
Harold was a nice man to me, though. He drove me right up to the admissions office of the school where they had a neat little table set up for students to check in. It was about 6pm at this point. They stared at me incredulously (nailed it. no spellcheck needed) as I pulled up in a blue cab from Lynchburg. I left my stuff sitting on the grass and gave them my name.
Apparently, Mr. Mike Flood from before failed to let them know that I was coming. They had no record of me. I told them they should, and they said that if they should, then the would. I countered their logic by recounting my events of the day and then concluded that if I wasn't supposed to be there, then I wouldn't have gone through all of that to be there. I told them to give me a place to stay because I had already paid for it. Now!
They did. I guess they didn't want trouble. I'm such a scary person, ya know?
I went to my new dorm room, discovered there was no AC, and that I was crammed into a room with two other dudes. I had the great pleasure of having the top bunk. One of my roommates, whose name I can't recall, introduced himself while packing tobacco under his lip. The other roommate, Jared, was doing something on his ancient computer. They left to go to the rest of orientation. I was too hungry and tired to do anything. I sat on the top bunk on a bare mattress and cried a little because I didn't know where the cafeteria was and I was too paranoid to ask the huge tongans out in the hall for fear of somehow offending them (paranoia... we get it). I ate the rest of my granola bars that I had brought along and passed out for the rest of the night.
UPDATE: I'm still not sure who "we" is (are?)
I awoke covered in sweat, realizing what humidity meant, and the tobacco roommate's stuff was gone. I took his bed, and that was that. I'm still not sure where he disappeared to. It's entirely possible that cancer from chewing tobacco kicked in so quickly that he immediately decayed while sitting on the toilet and someone accidently flushed him down after peeing on his stank, never to be seen again. Don't write me off as crazy! It could happen! And when it does, you'll be sorry you questioned me!
That's my story of my first trip to SVU. Wild, I know. Now I have friends that will pick me up at the airport (thanks, Sorensen!), so I don't have to worry about any of that.