Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wesson Oil

I love my alma mater dearly, but it was (and presumably is) a complete and total freak show, sometimes a very good freak show, sometimes a very, very bad freak show. And not the kind of freak show where everybody's trying to be a freak, but the kind where people really are really freaky and are usually trying their darnedest to seem normal, and when you meet them you might think for about five seconds that they're actually normal, but then they inadvertently let there freak flag fly, and you suddenly realize, "Wow, this person is a freakin' freak!"

And the alumni are just as freaky as the students (well, really, the alumni as a whole are just as freaky, but the alumni who hang out around the school are, on average, even freakier than the norm). One evening after Friday Night Lecture,* a number of us were standing around, chatting. A non-descript, middle-aged man who had been standing nearby chimed in with his thoughts on the talk. We politely listened. Then, he mentioned he was an alumnus. We began to get nervous. As the conversation progressed, he focused more and more of his attention on our friend, Zena. Soon, he was monopolizing the conversation and leaning into her personal space with a weird, bug-eyed smile. He recounted lengthy anecdotes of his heyday at the school. Others glanced around, looking for escape routes, and, one by one, they dropped away. After a couple of minutes, our large group had become a small one.

Then... "Yeah, I remember this one time, we were really drunk, and we got a whole bunch of Wesson Oil and we filled up the Pendulum Pit** and started wrestling! It was pretty crazy..." Quick as lightning, our remaining friends peeled away leaving just Zena, Wesson-Boy, and myself.

Oh, horror! I wanted to leave so bad, but it was impossible. I couldn't abandon my friend to the clutches of this heinous man. The torture dragged on and on. I looked longingly at nearby conversations full of happy, sane people not talking about wrestling in cooking products. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Zena extricated herself, and we walked away to rejoin (and viciously reprimand) our treasonous friends.

I like to believe, in that cruel hour, I was Zena's truest friend. In my heart of hearts, though, I suspect I was merely her slowest friend.

* Too complicated to explain.

** Also too complicated to explain.

Ask, and ye shall receive.


  1. Anonymous4:52 PM

    You were definitely my truest friend. Sometimes "slow" equals "true". Since I'm a philosophy professor I get to say things like that.

    The story is actually worse in my memory. My memory is that he said "we filled it with Wesson oil and, ahem, spent the night". Maybe he didn't actually say "ahem" but there was some sort of pause or throat-clearing before the dreadful words.

    Probably you mentally blocked that, just as I mentally blocked in my memory that he was paying special attention to me!

  2. Anonymous1:16 AM

    Thanks for opening my eyes. I thought you were referring to the Vincentian University, rather than the College. Somehow, I don't picture Vincentian priests as tolerant of Wesson oil pits. At least, not with post-pubescent women.

    And I think back to the piles of schools that recruited me out of High School, and my father's reaction to catalogs from "The New School for Social Research".

    My students are typically too apathetic to be that freaky.

  3. Zena, perhaps, we should contact other particpants and build a Rashomon-esque document of the even.

    Ashley, yes, being a freak is hard work.

  4. Anonymous2:09 PM

    Zena is right, the guy referenced "spending the night" soaked in oil (speaking as one of the bad friends who ran for cover rather than sticking it out with Zena). Ugh.

    I did have an eye-opening experience re: finding true friends at the recent croquet match, watching my "friends" run past me and not acknowledge knowing me as I was cornered by a to-remain-unnamed freak fellow alumn.

    Sorry Zena.

  5. Karma, baby! Kar! Ma!

  6. Anonymous6:49 AM

    I asked and I received and what an excellent story it was! I just have one question! What percentage of Johnnies are freaks

  7. Anonymous6:51 AM

    I think it can't be more than 5% freaks--what do you guys think? The problem is that percentage isn't enough--you need a complex 'freak index' where percentage of freaks is graphed against *just how freaky* they are. There aren't that *many* of them--but they had to be the freakiest people I've ever met before or since. Whereas at the hippie school I went to back home they must have been 40% freaks, but none of them all that freaky.

    Don't worry Bethie--I still love you. The question I have lingering is ... why did *I* stay? Was I trapped in some sort of 'freak field'?

  8. 5%? I was going to go with 100%, but then, my definition of freak is obviously much broader than yours. And there are, of course, many flavors of freakdom.

    Can we please graph them in n-dimensional freakspace?

  9. My ability to make computer graphs is probably limited to ASCII rudiments, so I won't at this juncture take up the n-dimensional freakspace challenge--and I won't even begin to speculate on what to label the many, many, many axes of this graph--and isn't Zena rather asking for us to assign to each alum a certain number of Freak Value Index Units, to give proper statistical weight to those freaks who were soooo freaky as to far exceed their presence on campus as merely one person? I mean, like she says, I'd bet that any one of our freaks has more freak in him (another question--what percetage of them are boys/men?) than most places' freaks have in their entire, freaky bodies.
    So--how much freak is worth 1 (one) FVIU?
    And--can we dorks come up with a better abbreviation than FVIU?
    And again--is it too late to point out that RDF and FVIU are, technically (and please pronounce that with the proper taped-glasses, nasal, grating voice) not acronyms?--since you cannot really pronounce them as words themselves. Like FUBAR and all that. I know I'm gonna get yelled at and have the OED or some such thing quoted back at me for this, but I know in my heart I'm right.

  10. Anonymous8:39 PM

    Well, Slim, if you say 100% of Johnnies are freaks, then that includes you, your beloved spouse and many of your dearest friends. And that makes me the mother of a freak. Yikes!! I think I will go with Zena's estimate or maybe about 10% from my obsevations during visits.

  11. I understand the implications of my assertion, but I stand by it.

  12. And, Portipont, by your reasoning, wouldn't TLA not be a TLA?

  13. Anonymous6:10 PM

    I think TLA has to stand for Two Letter Abbreviation if we take Portipont's point.

    I'll give up on the graph (although the two senses of freak that generate the 5%/100% disagreement also cry out to be distinguished).

    I would like to request an analysis of the "freak field" some time in the future. It could help many generations of future students at our alma mater. Unless it turns out to be something boring, like politeness or pity.

  14. I think he hypnotized you with his buggy eyes.