Thursday, October 21, 2010

Countdown: Less than a week...

A week from tonight I will be at a Marriott in Park Ridge, New Jersey.

Park Ridge, New Jersey? You may be asking.

It is somewhere off the Garden State Parkway, supposedly “not that far really” from West Point.

The Park Ridge Marriott is the official reunion hotel for my West Point class, the Class of 1985, which will be celebrating our 25th reunion.

We actually changed our reunion date to later in the fall, so that we could get a hotel closer to West Point; at our twentieth reunion (which is the only one I have ever attended) we ended up down by the Tappanzee Bridge. But, apparently, other classes, with more seniority than ours, heard of our brilliant plan, so they changed THEIR reunion weekend, too. So, we still ended up relatively far from our rockbound highland home.

I know, you are thinking: Didn’t you graduate in the spring? Why is your reunion in the fall?

Well, this is West Point we are talking about, and reunions tend to revolve around football games and football weekends.

At my last reunion, five years ago, it poured down rain the entire reunion weekend. It rained so hard they canceled the parade, and the football game, although held, may as well have been a water polo match. I am pretty sure Army lost. I can’t remember who they were playing, but I think it was a team from Michigan.

This year Army is playing VMI. I remember playing VMI my plebe year, and I think we, embarrassingly, lost. That was during the “Walker up the middle, Walker up the middle, Walker up the middle, punt” period of Army football. Before we discovered the wishbone secret that Air Force had mastered and had a stunning football season my firstie year, beating the hell out of both Air Force and Navy and going to a real, live bowl game. In Michigan.

The VMI game, though, was back in plebe year, when the Army team was not doing so well. And there were all these girls running around Michie Stadium in pink and green, groupies from Sweet Briar College, an all-girls school near VMI, there to support their “men.”

I remember getting hazed in a dark sallyport on Saturday night, after the game, by a cadet who emerged from the shadows to ask me what was for dinner. I was startled because Saturday dinner was optional and upperclassmen didn’t usually attend it and hardly ever asked us what was on the menu for that meal. I struggled to remember the menu but somehow managed to get it – or a close proximity thereof – out. I was waiting to get hazed by this upperclassman, as I was not at all sure I had been entirely accurate. Plus, what kind of asshole must he be to haze a poor lowly plebe on a Saturday night, AFTER we had just lost to effing VMI?

To my surprise, the upperclassman did not haze me, nor even question me further. In fact, a smile of intense smugness crept across his face.

Okayyyy… now, this was getting weird!

“Do you know who I am?” he asked.

“No, sir,” I replied.

Uh-oh. This could not possibly be good.

He laughed. “I’m not a West Point cadet,” he said, emerging fully from the shadows to reveal his fake Dress Gray uniform.

OK, now this was getting really bizarre. Was this supposed to be funny?

“I am a VMI cadet,” he said proudly.

I was pissed. It was a Saturday night, I was pinging back to my room, just minding my own business, and I get accosted by a VMI cadet who wants to haze me?????

You are not even a real cadet, I thought to myself. You are from VMI. Where you pay to get hazed. And you have nothing better to do with your time than pretend to be a West Point cadet and accost lone female plebes in a dark sally port after your goddamned football team just beat our sorry ass football team?????

And I just called you “SIR”?????????????????

The cadet laughed again. “I tricked you,” he said. “You thought I was really a West Point upperclassman.”

I looked at him for a brief moment and blinked and said, “Good evening, SIR!” and pinged on my merry way.


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