By Thomas Hislop
The school grind is something I always struggle with in September. The telltale signs of fall are here, and I’m starting to feel old. For instance, for the fourth straight year, I am relearning French. I may give up this year, though, as I find more and more that simply saying “oui” and smiling gets me through class. Somewhere Madame Tournier is undoubtedly reading this with a smile while contemplating what she will ask me about this column in French. No matter the question, Madame, my answer is “oui.” For the fourth straight year, I find myself using pen day after day in math, even though by the end of class my notes always end up looking like a Jackson Pollock painting. Trust me: I take Art History. This very moment, as I type to my consistent audience of four readers, some freshman is trying to pull the old “Nantucket Nectar under the jacket” move in the library. Just imagining this makes me feel old.
I find myself often wandering into the Senior Center, picking up the latest issue of AARP magazine and reading about how Meryl Streep is keeping young. It hurts to think the freshman this year weren’t even alive when Kramer vs. Kramer debuted. The late ‘70s were some wild times, weren’t they?
With senior year upon me, what I have realized is that this school is not built for old people like me. Maybe I am just getting grumpy with old age, but I swear Gerry’s Landing is becoming a place only for the young. It’s happened over time, but I’ll explain its evolution.
In my day, there was bingo every week in the Community Room. Bingo, a pastime as American as Chinese debt. Now you never hear anything about bingo, just “cake walks” and “Color Wars.” Bingo is a social sport, an activity that combines competition and fun. It’s like gambling, but without horses or boxing. (Though fights did break out in bingo, especially when the elders of BB&N would bet their farm animals and land in the games). The Community Room was a sanctuary of sorts, with shining tile as far as the eye could see and constant ping pong games with as many as four broken paddles at a time. Now? Nothing but carpet and tables. What is happening to this school?
BB&N used to be a place of hope and of opportunity. Every grade would strive for the ultimate goal, something every single student knew they needed. Yes, a slushie machine, the ultimate luxury. Sure, the slushie machine was a myth, an unreachable goal. Every student running for Co-President needed to mention the machine if they even wanted a chance at victory. Hope was the only thing that kept us going. Now, I don’t know what to believe. All Student Council does these days is design overwhelming knighting ceremonies and homecomings. We’ve really lost our way.
Even Bivouac has lost its ways. I haven’t traveled up north since my time in the woods, but I understand they have cooking devices now. Well, we had cooking devices too: they were called fire. As far as I’m concerned, you didn’t even go to Bivouac if you didn’t eat raw hamburger once or twice, go to the water the next morning, and find the color of your friends’ skin to be the same as the algae. E.coli teaches you a thing or two about your Bivouac tentmate. It separates the strong immune systems from the weak. Have you ever heard of my Bivouac roommate? I think we “lost” him on Mount Monadnock the day after we made American chop suey. At this point, I think it’s time to change Bivouac’s name. Maybe adding the word “Resort” to the end would suffice. It’s become an abomination. I heard they might even get a slushie machine up there.
Maybe I’m just a bitter old man. It could be because I can feel my time at Gerry’s Landing is ending. It could also be because colleges I haven’t yet applied to are sending me rejection letters. They’re shockingly forward about the whole thing. I appreciate their honesty, as they have given me plenty of time to build my own college, like that movie Accepted. I’ve been trying desperately to get Don Antonio to come back and be the dean, but he mumbled something about how he needed to motorcycle the world first.
I guess I have some time left. Maybe this year I really will learn how to speak French. Well, maybe I’ll stick with the smile. I need the extra time to figure out how to get one of those dang slushie machines.