Categorized | Graduation

Commencement: The Hard Way

Posted on 23 October 2008

The only thing I really felt as I sat through my graduation ceremony, listening to a monotone voice reciting the names of each and every member of my graduating class of about 3500, was relief. Not only had I finished up four years of hard work, but I’d also survived the preceding week. I wasn’t thinking about the knowledge I’d gained during the last four years — I was thinking more of what I’d learned during the last seven days.

Lesson 1: Get a moving truck early and/or don’t mistake your minivan for a flatbed truck

Because of disastrously poor planning on the parts of my roommate and I, our idea to share a rented truck for the big move-out came to a crashing halt the week before graduation, and I ended up moving a good deal of my stuff to my new place – a 4 hour roundtrip away – in my compact car over the course of three days.

What I couldn’t get into my four-door, I packed into my parents‘ two cars after they arrived to help out. We managed to pack various assortments of furniture, appliances and kinfolk snugly into the three cars.

Ever heard of Newton’s first law of motion? That for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction? In other words, don’t load up family cars like U-hauls and not expect some kind of vehicular retribution.

The back window of my father’s beloved SUV shattered into a billion pieces as he tried to unsuccessfully mount a bike rack onto its rear door. Between the pressure hitting the door from the inside of the tightly packed car and the tension coming from the straps that kept the rack attached to the door, the window gave. The first casualty of the move-out.

We were almost next. On the way up to graduation, my mother’s van blew a tire on the highway. While my parents hoped to ignore the problem until after we arrived on campus on time for graduation, I told them that family dismemberment was not something I wanted to add to my list of graduation memories. I finally convinced them to pull over and get the damn thing fixed.

Miraculously, we all eventually made it to campus on time and relatively unharmed. (We figured out later that the tire had been punctured because it was riding so low and had been made more susceptible to the shards of glass surrounding it).

Lesson 2: Even Cheap Hotels Have Mattresses

You’ve heard about people making reservations for hotel rooms months, if not years, in advance for events like graduation? Ever thought that sort of behavior was bordering on neurotic?

Well, when thirty thousand additional people need to cram into a small town to watch their precious children graduate, one year’s prep time might be too little too late. My parents, thinking that four months time gave them plenty of time to grab fairly decent hotel rooms for the event, failed to get a hotel room within a 100-mile radius of the campus where I was graduating.

As it was, my family spent the two nights they visited me on the floor of my new apartment with stacked boxes serving as headboards for the sleeping bags/blankets/pillows we were using as mattresses. My new digs were also two hours away from where I’d gone to school, so that starting at six the next morning, six people started taking shower shifts in my one sad bathroom.

The real lesson here? Don’t let your parents make arrangements for themselves when you should know better – after all it’s your turf and you’re getting the gifts and exultation. Show a little appreciation and save them the trouble of booking their own accommodations.

Lesson 3: “Rendezvous Point” Isn’t Just a Trekkie Term

It seems obvious that part of the celebration festivities should include some time with the people you spent all of those years cramming and drinking with. The first step to that process: finding those people amidst a throng of about 10,000 others who are all thinking the same thought.

The best way to ensure this is to schedule a time to meet up with your buddies somewhere before graduation begins. The next best thing is to make sure that each and every one of those friends is armed with a cell phone so that a massive reconnaissance operation can take place within a matter of minutes and a meeting place can be arranged quickly.

Having failed to do either of the above, I spent most of the time before I entered the graduation arena, walking in the hot sun in a black robe searching the crowds for buddies. Luck favored me this time and I eventually ended up sitting with several friends, after finding them wandering around the arena in a similarly distraught and confused manner.

Lesson 4: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

My final piece of advice for graduation: take a book. While you might get misty-eyed when you see your buddies walking across that stage, chances are that you’ll probably want to have your mind otherwise occupied while 1500 people you never realized existed also take that fabled stroll

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