It’s that lovely time of year again. Summer fades to fall, you know, that season lasting three weeks or so prior to winter. The leaves change color briefly on the few trees Philadelphia hasn’t yet uprooted. Millions of curious freshmen and their incredibly naive parents load up the Hummers and head to their college campuses of choice. Oh, wait – did I say it’s a lovely time? I mean horrible. Yep, horrible. Freshmen scurry around nonstop. To be honest, I think most of them may be nocturnal. Seriously, it’s really bad.
I shouldn’t be so critical, as we’ve all been there before. It’s true. At one point I was a freshman, excited to start anew and more excited to join the real world only four years later. Of course, that was before I was inauspiciously placed on the 11-year graduation plan.
The first week of that first year was certainly a learning experience, not scholastically, but developmentally. I came from the sleepy, semi-desolate quasi-city of Scranton, Pa., and was unprepared for the rigors of real city life.
I can remember, with complete clarity, my third evening staying in White Hall. My roommate was droning on and on about the new Zelda game or something equally droll when I suddenly heard screaming outside. Just one voice I could make out. Peering out the window, I found the source of the commotion: A severely intoxicated man was yelling at McDonald’s. I watched a little longer, and soon realized he was yelling at the structure itself. This poor, soused man was apparently furious because McDonald’s, the building, was standing in his way. After a solid 15 minutes, the man satisfied himself by hurling expletives at the offending fast-food joint. He then left, hopefully to delight others.
Stories like that abound in Philadelphia, and those from outside the area might be shocked to learn that’s “normal” behavior in the city. I know I was shocked, being outside of my element. Nowadays, though, I’m almost blind to the oddities and eccentricities the City of Brotherly Love has to throw at me.
I say ‘almost blind’ because there are still those rare occasions that catch me off-guard. Recently, a sloppy, androgynous crack-head attempted to snag a kiss from my twin brother. Right on her chalky lips. Her mammaries were flopping through the armholes of her stained and loose wife-beater. My brother, fortunately, respectfully declined her offer. Repeatedly. You can’t avoid encounters like this in the city, but you can get used to them.
And that’s what I’m trying to say to you in my roundabout way, freshmen and freshwomen. We upperclassmen don’t hate you – or even dislike you – as it may seem. We’re just jaded to the ongoing crises of college life and the city. You’ll realize soon. But for now, enjoy your time chasing skirts and drinks and spending your parents’ money on Taquitos and Maxims from 7-Eleven. But most of all, enjoy your time in the city and appreciate it. Soon, you may grow to hate it.
Michael Gleeson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.