Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rush Limbo

In Boston, there is a ritual that is as old as time and as regular as clockwork. Just as the swallows return annually to Capistrano and the buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio, the college students return to their various campuses in the Boston area. It is a congregation that can be detected in the increased traffic on I-95 and the larger than usual clusters of backpacked, unruly ragamuffins clustered around the bag claim at Logan Airport. 
The freshman arrive at MIT, usually in the last week of August (Stanford, being on a more relaxed, California-style timetable, usually doesn't see its first students until the third week of September). They begin the unusual mating process known as Rush Week, at which time they will decide their living arrangement for the next four years. The frats choose first, rushing their picks of the young, peach-fuzzed frosh who wander by looking for a good time and a warm place to sleep for the night. The leftovers stumble their bewildered way into the dorm system, and the dregs drift into Bexley to plot their careers as MoveOn organizers (okay, we didn't have MoveOn in my day, but there were any number of radical causes about, including thursday).

You'll notice I haven't mentioned the co-eds (ladies, if you will); in the '70s, MIT did not have sororities, so the fairer sex was doomed to end up in McCormick, although there were options - Baker, East Campus, Senior House, WILG, Burton, No. 6, and so on. One of the fraternities, Sigma Nu, actually decided to admit women - and was promptly drummed out of the national fraternity by its incensed elders, whereafter it became known as Epsilon Theta. No other frat followed in their footsteps, formally, although some informal living arrangements were arrived at by consenting couples in both the fraternities and the dorms. One dorm acquired a Combat Zone hooker that way.

Bag claim is always an interesting place; it is the only time you will see your fellow passengers in an upright position. It's always entertaining to play Match the Passenger With the Bag. Airport adminstrators are no fun at all, though; they warn you politely that some bags may look alike, so be sure to check the claim tag first before grabbing your suitcase. Except in Philadelphia, where in true Brotherly Love fashion, there is a rather stern warning that "This Is Not Your Bag!" affixed to the ugliest green Samsonite ever manufactured.

Two end notes: as I mentioned before, I have a terrible time drawing dark faces in a comic strip, which explains why Stickles had no African American characters. This strip has one, and as my father hastened to point out in politically-correct tones, it is one of the baggage porters. I corrected that injustice by casting a dark-faced Harvard student in a later 8-panel strip - also set at an airport. The second has to do with the intro; it never happened to me, but one of my colleagues from my early consulting days told me that It Actually Happened to Him that a flight attendant mixed white wine and red wine together to produce rosé. He also told me a story, about a young man with a severe lisp who wanted to become a Fuller Brush salesman, that I shall not relate here, but I will tell it to you sometime in a bar somewhere after a half-dozen beers.

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