Sometimes – who am I kidding? – All the time, when I think of college, it feels like aeons ago. It wasn’t that long ago. It was 10 years ago. But it feels like twice that, or maybe like I went to college on the moon such that the time/space relationship is wiggled.
One of my favorite memories from college is about the Pin Straightener. The Pin Straightener was a theatre thing, from the theatre department, which is where I hung out. It went like this:
Say you had someone working with you who was either incompetent, or too chatty, or just needed to go away for a minute so you could think about what you were trying to solve. You’d send them to someone else on the team (usually someone in the costume department) to get the “pin sorter.” Well, that person in the costume department knew the game, and they would say something like, “you can have the pin sorter when so-and-so gives me back the board straightener, go get that!” So the dutiful worker (often a Freshman) would go off to get the board straightener, and the next person would send them off go get, oh, whatever, and on and on it would go. It was most joyful because often the scene shop and the costume department were far apart from each other, so you’d have this poor soul running back and forth looking for these things that entirely did not exist.
This is how we entertained ourselves.
These days there is no Pin Straightener, because someone would get sued for bullying.
Come on, you know it’s true.
These days people come out of college aggressive and terrified, one minute owning the world and the next covering their tracks so there is no proof. Colleges seem more demanding and cut-throat – and they have to be, because the world is more demanding and cut-throat – and the people coming out of them fight harder and brag bigger and have shiny, crispy resumes covered in internships before they even hit the job market.
My class did not have that. My class… it was more like… we just loved the world, and all we wanted was for it to love us back. We made fun because it was fun, and because we were allowed to have fun, because we were not worried about whether or not we would have a 401K five years down the road. Some people would call us “innocent” or “sheltered”, or maybe just agree that I went to college on the moon. But you know what? We were happy. And for the most part, I’m still happy.
That said, most of my class has gone back to graduate school in recent years and learned to be more demanding and cut-throat. It’s working for them. They’re getting the jobs, and the 401K’s, and largely forgetting about how we made each other laugh. As I sit at the brink of my own career change, I weigh this against my memory of the Pin Straightener. Time to grow up and get tough? Maybe.