Friday, July 4, 2014

Frat Boy: Why Mu Alpha? - Part 2

Four, sometimes five days I week I had marching band as a significant part of my day. This was my family. I didn’t get to know the people in my dorm because while they were doing freshman “get to know you” stuff I was out hanging out with my marching band friends.

 I had chosen to live in a single in what was known as the most anti-social dorm. I chose this dorm because it had a cafeteria downstairs and I couldn’t imagine sharing a room with someone else. Little did I know that if I didn’t have marching band to help me be social and get out of that single, I might have gone crazy with loneliness.

The altos including me in all of their social outings, especially parties at the Phi Mu Alpha house.

At the first couple parties I attended, I didn’t feel like I fit in at all. The lights were turned down low, there was loud music, and the main activity besides drinking was dancing. It wasn’t until later that Heather and the girls of SAI taught me how to dance (and some of them tried to teach me how to drink).

I was horribly out of place but no one else seemed to think so. People came up to me, high-fived me, gave me hugs and welcomed me as if I belonged there. Everyone was just happy I was there. I couldn’t figure out why. I wasn’t one of them. I was just some kid. Why did they actually seem to care when I told them I was a music composition major? Were these people really that nice?

The one activity I got into was foosball. I fell in love with this game in middle school. As I approached the table, Charlie came up to join me as my partner in a doubles match.

I began to spin my men wildly as I did in middle school and Charlie calmly stopped me and explained that house rules said that you could only spin them one time around. The fact that Charlie didn’t blow up at me seemed like a big deal.

Charlie played in the low brass section in NUMB and is best described as a Chris Farley character. He was a big guy, he was a LOUD guy, but one of the most lovable and warm people I have met in my entire life. While other guys in PMA seemed like gods, he seemed like a normal down to earth guy.

Charlie was unlike any person I had ever known. He was raised on a farm and knew less about modern classical music than anyone I had ever met up until that point. The amazing thing was that he would listen to me talk about music endlessly and always seemed genuinely interested. He embraced the fact that we were so different, not by saying anything to that point but by simply showing interest in what I was into.

We lost that game horribly. Charlie kept switching from defense to offense trying to make up for my inability to play these guys at their level, but he couldn’t make up for my incompetency. As the other two guys left, I was scared. I didn’t know Charlie that well at that point but I did know that he was one of the best foosball players in the house and I know that he didn’t like to lose.

I looked over to him as he let his head hang down and as he raised it to look at me, instead of seeing frustration or anger, I saw a smile, “you want to play me one on one?”

Almost every night for a month, Charlie played foosball with me after dinner. He kicked my butt over and over and over, and he was always a gracious winner. Whenever we played doubles and we inevitably lost, he would always defend my abilities and never let anyone make fun of me for my lack of ability (but “your mom” jokes were fair game).

I got better, when we played doubles we didn’t loose as badly and sometime when I played him, I actually scored.

I don’t know why Charlie was so nice to me. Maybe it’s because someone was nice to him when he was a freshmen. Maybe there was something in me that made him think of himself as a freshmen. Or maybe it’s because, Charlie is simply a great guy.

I like to think it’s because of that last reason.

*****

The gods showed me what I wanted to be. Charlie and many other guys showed me that I was welcome. When I asked those senior girls in SAI who took care of me what they though me about rushing PMA, they all encouraged me to do so. That was enough for me. I was going to rush PMA.

I realized the gods were mortals as I took on their roles later in my college career. We kept up the spirit of brotherhood that Charlie displayed not only for fraternity members but also for other people in our community. The sisters of SAI continued to support PMA and as a group they became some of my biggest supporters politically as a fraternity executive and personally as friends.

It was by the kindness of others that I found my place at PMA. I never figured out what I did to deserve this, but it inspired me to pass this on and do the same thing for other underclassmen as I got older and for people I encountered in the rest of my life.  

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